Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mike Butler: The Oyang 75 and fisheries pillage

Five of the crew of the South Korean charter fishing vessel Oyang 75 were found guilty of fishing offences last week and the Ministry for Primary Industry has seized another Oyang ship, the Oyang 77 berthed at Lyttelton, and charged its captain and factory manager with illegal dumping and misreporting the vessel's catch. (1) How are these South Korean ships connected to the New Zealand fishing industry?

Southern Storm Fishing Ltd chartered the Oyang 75 and the Oyang 70 that sank in 2010 off Otago with the deaths of six crew members. The five Oyang 75 crew members were convicted for and face fines of up to $250,000 after throwing 405 tonnes of low-value fish, still worth as much as $1.4-million, overboard and not reporting it.

Southern Storm Fishing Ltd was formed as a joint venture between a South Korean born New Zealand citizen, who owned 75.1 percent, and the South Korean Oyang Corporation, which owned the remainder, according to Southern Storm’s submission to the 2011 Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels. In late 2006, South Korean seafood corporation Sajo Industries bought the Oyang Corporation. The Southern Storm submission said that for about 10 years to 2011, the company had caught over 40,000 tonnes of fish and generated exports of $250-million. (2)

The South Korean born majority shareholder restructured his way out of Southern Storm last year, around the time of the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels, and said he was no longer involved.

The South Korean entrepreneur was also listed as a director of Tu’Ere Fishing Ltd along with a person associated with Te Runanga o Ngati Tama, the tribe that lost all of a $14.5-million Treaty of Waitangi payout it received in 2003 in failed investments. Tu’Ere, which was dissolved on June 20 last year, (3) chartered the ShinJi, which became the subject of a Department of Labour investigation of claims of abuse and underpayment of crew. Crew members said they left the vessel in Auckland due to underpayment and mistreatment. (4)

In May 2011, Southern Storm Fishing held a “media event” in Dunedin where television journalists from both main networks were invited on board to inspect their new replacement vessel, the Oyang 75. That event was conducted by a publicist who had attracted attention by working a dual role as a ministerial press adviser while doing publicity for the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission and speaking at a pro-whaling conference. (5)

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood said the union is pressing for an overhaul of fisheries regulations and the removal of foreign charter vessels from New Zealand fishing. “We see crews taking the rap and getting charged, but everything they do will be a result of getting immense pressure on from the charterers and the ship owners who demand profit at all cost.” (6)

As a result of the 1992 commercial fisheries settlement, tribes control 37 percent of the fishing quota. Maori formed Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, made up of a 50 percent shareholding in Sealord Fisheries, plus ownership of four other companies. The other 50 percent shareholding of Sealord is held by Nissui, a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet.

Most tribes rent out their right to catch a certain tonnage of fish in a particular year to operators of foreign charter vessels. The catch may be processed in New Zealand or shipped to China for processing. Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has defended their use, saying it "would not be appropriate for the Government to interfere in their decision-making" over the use of foreign charter vessels.

Reporter Michael Field has covered this story over several years. He found that Ngati Porou Seafoods in Gisborne uses foreign vessels, including, at one stage, the ill-fated Korean Oyang 70. Tainui's Raukura Moana Fisheries uses ageing Ukrainian boats, while Ngai Tahu no longer engages directly in deepwater fishing. Ngapuhi has a 50/50 joint-venture company, Northland Deepwater JV Ltd, with DSM Ltd, an Auckland firm. Hawke’s Bay's Ngati Kahungunu opted out of fishing its own quota, in favour of a deal with Northland Deepwater (7)

The Southern Storm Ltd submission to the ministerial inquiry blamed Daren Coulston and his Keep It K-iwi campaign for adverse publicity.

Coulston says “around 45 percent of all New Zealand’s deep sea quota is caught by foreign-crewed vessels, nearly all of iwi deep sea quota is caught by foreign crewed vessels and about 65 percent of all New Zealand fish caught is processed in China and Thailand. This is the great New Zealand scandal, as New Zealand has the capability to catch all of its own fish – we don’t need foreign crews here at all.”

“The scary thing is that if we let foreigners catch our fish for another 10 years we will loose the capability to do it ourselves. We will be trapped into foreign fishermen catching New Zealand fish for decades to come. Is that the way it is meant to be?” he said. (8)

1. Govt seeking return of Korean trawler, Three News,
2. Submission by Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd to the mistrial inquiry into foreign charter vessels. October 7, 2011.
3. Tu’Ere Fishing Ltd,
4. Fishing charges for Oyang 75 officers point to industry wide failings,
5. Banned PR man quits for job with Maori,
6. Fishing charges for Oyang 75 officers point to industry wide failings,
7. Iwi blamed for state of fishery,
8. Move to stop foreign fishing,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All seems familiar! Parallel to selling off SOEs and no doubt, we'll see similar problems arising in the future!