Monday, September 19, 2016

The Quota Management System is broken

New Zealand's Quota Management System is often held up as a gold standard of sustainable fisheries management. But it turns out that that's only true if you ignore massive, pervasive cheating of the system by our criminal fishing industry. MPI thinks the problem is so bad that if they enforced the rules, they would put half the industry out of business:

The Ministry for Primary Industries has admitted that illegal fish dumping is so widespread that if the rules were properly enforced over half of inshore fishers would go out of business.

The suggestion is made in an email between two top MPI managers, which forms part of a damning report, released on Friday, into its failure to prosecute fish dumping.

The email was sent as MPI debated whether to prosecute the illegal dumping of tonnes of fish by five of six boats it was monitoring in 2012.

In it, director of fisheries management David Turner said fish dumping was systemic and something MPI had never been able to get on top of.

"Fisheries Management can't quantify the tonnages involved but we suspect they are significant to the point that they are impacting on stocks.

"We estimate that if we found the golden bullet to stop discarding, we would probably put over half of the inshore fleet out of business overnight..."

Which invites the obvious question: why don't they? It would be better for the environment, and better for the long-term future of the industry if these criminals were shut down and locked out, and their quota taken up by honest participants. The fact that MPI is refusing to do this tells us that they have been completely captured, not just by the industry, but by its current criminal incumbents. And that simply is not acceptable.

As with dirty dairying, the law should be enforced. And if this puts cheating fishers out of business, that's a benefit, not a loss.