Fisheries compliance reports

Documents released under the Official Information Act (OIA) after requests for reports related to fisheries operations between 1996 and 2012.


3 August 2018 – Hoki fishery compliance reports released

Reports from 2011 compliance monitoring of the hoki fisheries on the West Coast of the South Island and Chatham Rise are available. 

1 June 2018 – Video statement on the release of compliance reports (3:06)

In this video, MPI's manager of compliance investigations, Gary Orr, sets the record straight on recently leaked fisheries compliance risk assessment reports. These reports have been the subject of recent news media attention and some misinformed commentary.

Mr Orr explains why we are releasing these reports – to demonstrate transparency in our work in this area.

[Fisheries New Zealand logo appears on the screen, showing the words: Fisheries New Zealand – Tini a Tangaroa]

[Shot changes to MPI Manager Compliance Investigation, Gary Orr, speaking in front of a Fisheries New Zealand banner]

MPI Manager Compliance Investigation, Gary Orr: "The compliance risk assessments that have been subject to publicity recently were never meant for public release.

"These were internal documents only that we used to inform compliance about appropriate interventions in these fisheries, and to support Fisheries Management and our science colleagues in putting in place effect management regimes around the fisheries to ensure sustainability.

"It's important to understand that prosecutions only achieve short term behavioural change, we're talking about fleets of vessels operating in a fishery and if you want to achieve behavioural change across a fishery fleet, you have to use alternative methods, and the best way to do that was to use the information from these reports to work with industry, identify behavioural changes that needed to be made, and then monitor, as we have done, to ensure that those changes are made and that compliance rates are improved.

"There have been suggestions from a number of organisations and individuals that we're in bed with industry and I can categorically refute that. That is not the case at all. I think if you look at our record of prosecutions of commercial fishing vessels and companies, it speaks for itself. We have a number of cases currently before the court. So we don't shy away from prosecution where it's necessary. We are impartial and the way we approach our decisions around prosecution and the way we enforce the legislation in fisheries. And we are not influenced by anybody. Compliance stands alone in its decision making.

"I was so disappointed to see the reports go out publicly. Our staff have worked long and hard and put in a lot of effort to generate these reports. They care passionately about the sustainability of the fishery and this is one way of demonstrating that, and this has just completely undermined what they've tried to achieve.

"The documents have got into the public domain somehow and we have a high degree of suspicion how that might have happened, but that's not something I can really talk about at the moment. Suffice it to say that we as employees in this organisation really need to be conscious of security of information and making sure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

"We are currently working on going through all of the information around our activities, compliance activities and there are documents that are going to be released in the very near future that date back almost 20 years, so there is a lot of work to be done, but we have a team working on that at the moment, and we will get that up on the website so that people can see we have nothing to hide and we're being transparent.

"When we release documents elements of those reports are blacked out to protect the privacy of persons and companies as you would expect your privacy to be protected were you the subject of that report. There are also investigative techniques contained within those documents that we need to protect so that we can be effective in our investigations in the future.

[Fisheries New Zealand logo appears again]

[Video ends]

[End of transcript]

Historical compliance reports released

Southern Blue Whiting fishery 

On 29 May 2018, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) released historical reports dealing with compliance risk profiling of the Southern Blue Whiting fishery that were designed to better inform fisheries management practices and, in turn, raise compliance levels.

The purpose of these reports, a summary of which was released last year (2017), was to identify the extent to which the reporting of catch may have been inaccurate and the reasons for those inaccuracies.

Work led to changes

As a result of this work, industry changed its processing procedures which resulted in more accurate reporting and MPI altered conversion factors to ensure the way the fish was processed was more transparent. In particular:

  • The 2012 compliance risk analysis and recommendations looked at what fishers’ declared in regard to on-board processing of fish caught. Engagement with industry following this analysis resulted in one fishing company re-declaring 600 tonne of Southern Blue Whiting, meaning they had to use more of their allocated catch to compensate for the error.
  • The ratio calculation, or conversion factor (CF) that determines the total green-weight of fish taken after it is processed was adjusted after the 2013 season from 1.7 to 1.65 to correct for variation identified in the CF testing process carried out by fishing vessels in the 2012 and 2013 fishing seasons. In addition, MPI updated the definition of how fish could be cut to ensure consistency in calculation of CFs and processing activities.
  • Following on from the 2012 fishing season, MPI tasked observers on vessels operating in the Southern Blue Whiting fishery for the 2013 fishing season with gathering data on compliance with the way the fish was cut during processing and the processing of fish to fishmeal.  The observers also sought to identify areas for improving the accountability of vessels' factory systems and settings, thereby improving the accuracy of data regarding the amount of Southern Blue Whiting landed. Observer coverage in the main Southern Blue Whiting fisheries has been nearly 100% since 2013.
  • After the 2012 Southern Blue Whiting fishing season, the 2013 compliance risk analysis and recommendations saw MPI introduce an annual review process for surimi conversion factor testing and subsequent reporting.

Deepwater trawl hoki fishery

In 2010, the then Ministry of Fisheries began a new approach to monitoring compliance in the deepwater trawl fisheries. The approach was based on proactive profiling of specific fisheries rather than the reactive investigation-driven approach of the past.

The hoki fisheries on the West Coast of the South Island and Chatham Rise were the first to be profiled. Most of the data and information collection programme was completed during winter 2011. The main focus related to issues that could impact the accuracy of reported catch. 

The report containing the results of the winter 2011 programme and analysis was released in 2012. The 2012 internal report contained 44 recommendations.

Summary of recommendations and actions:

  • The risk profiling approach has resulted in Fisheries New Zealand having significantly improved knowledge of the product flow process on fishing vessels that process fish, such as hoki, at sea
  • This knowledge has enabled Fisheries New Zealand to work with vessel operators and focus subsequent efforts on those parts of the product flow process where inconsistency could result in reduced accuracy of greenweight reporting (often referred to as “slippage”)
  • A key outcome has been getting vessel operators to document their product flow process and provide that documentation to Fisheries New Zealand for auditing by observers and fishery officers
  • The report identified the need for Fisheries New Zealand, vessel operators, and industry stakeholders to work collectively to achieve improved fisheries management outcomes
  • The report identified the need for ongoing monitoring of some fishing practices together with the need for Fisheries New Zealand to review specific aspects of its regulatory framework
  • The report highlights how difficult it is to process the volumes of fish caught at sea and maintain precise and accurate records of the greenweight (weight before processing) of the fish caught

Reasons for fisheries operations

Fisheries operations between 1996 and 2012 were done for a range of reasons.

  • Some were to get information to support the management of fisheries.
  • Others were done to detect or respond to non-compliance with fisheries laws.

These operations weren't the only compliance activities to monitor commercial fishing during these years. Other investigations led to prosecution action.

Operations had various objectives 

The varied nature of the objectives of the operations is reflected in the information that is being released. In some cases, there is information regarding enforcement activity directly associated with an operation or alternatively, there is a description of the activity and its purpose to support the management of fisheries.

Most of these are assessment reports designed to enable us to decide if action needs to be taken. For example, if we should begin a formal investigation, undertake educative measures, formulate policy, identify areas for improvement, or help focus our compliance activity.

Released documents

Operation Year Information releasedSubject of Operational activity
Blade 1996 Internal memo related to Operation Blade [PDF, 880 KB] Hoki reports (UTF – untrimmed fillet and trimmed fillet declarations)
Kenwood 1999 Summary of Facts document from prosecution [PDF, 1.2 MB] Hoki bycatch not reported
Box II 2007 Documents cannot be found – Refused under s18e of the OIA Paua poaching in South Island
Turn Up 2003 Operational orders document [PDF, 1.5 MB] Chatham Islands regarding paua recovery rates
Horse 2004 Summary of Facts document from prosecution [PDF, 577 KB] Southern Blue Whiting discarding
Purse 2004

Misreporting investigation  [PDF, 442 KB]

Internal memo and job sheet outlining operation. Note other documents cannot be found despite a reasonable search and are withheld under section 18(e) of the OIA. However, the then Ministry of Fisheries issued a press release about these proceedings.

Ministry of Fisheries press release – Scoop website

Misreporting investigation
Mini 2004 The summary of Operation Mini is in the Operation Maxi investigation report [PDF, 5.8 MB] Hoki discarding
Maxi 2005 Investigation report [PDF, 5.8 MB] High-grading of Hoki follows Operation Mini
Mega 2008 Operation orders document [PDF, 7.2 MB] Follow-up operation of Mini and Maxi involving the use of RNZAF assets
UZ 2010 Job sheets and warrant information related to the operation [PDF, 3.2 MB] Reporting of wholesale fish purchases
Bronto 2011 Summary prepared for risk profile report [PDF, 1.6 MB]  Regarding the West Coast South Island Hoki fishery – analysis to feed into risk assessment of the stock
Apate 2011 Operation orders document [PDF, 5.5 MB] Operation to support the first part of Phase 2 of Bronto
Apate II 2012 Operation orders document [PDF, 2.2 MB] Operation to support the second part of Phase 2 of Bronto
Trois 2012 Summary prepared of risk profile report [PDF, 1.8 MB] Southern Blue Whiting – analysis to feed into risk assessment of the stock

Reasons for withholding some information

Some material has been withheld under these sections of the Official Information Act 1982:

  • 6(c) – to avoid prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences, and the right to a fair trial;
  • 9(2)(a) – to protect the privacy of natural persons;
  • 9(2)(b)(ii) – to protect information where the making available of the information would be likely unreasonably to prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied or who is the subject of the information;
  • 9(2)(ba)(i) – to protect protect information which is subject to an obligation of confidence or which any person has been or could be compelled to provide under the authority of any enactment, where the making available of the information would be likely to prejudice the supply of similar information, or information from the same source, and it is in the public interest that such information should continue to be supplied;
  • 9(2)(h) – to maintain legal professional privilege; and
  • 18(e) – as the information requested does not exist or, despite reasonable efforts, cannot be found.

In some cases, several documents are released under the OIA to provide information on an operation in the absence of a formal investigation report being available.

  • 16(e) - where information may be made available in one or more of the following ways… by giving an excerpt or summary of the contents.
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