DOC, MFish agree – one observer per boat

DOC and MFish have assured inshore fishermen that their overlapping observer programmes will not mean more than one observer per boat.

However, fishermen will still have to pay for the two separate programmes.

MFish’s Hector’s dolphin summer observer programme, which began in 2009, overlaps with DOC’s Marine Conservation Services Programme, which has been observing inshore fisheries since 1998.

The two government agencies have issued a joint statement to NBR in response to concerns expressed by fishermen over the programmes, which place university students on board inshore fishing vessels to monitor wildlife interaction.

Pete Dawson, chief executive of the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, said when the DOC programme for next year was announced that there could potentially be “observers observing observers”.

However, the agencies said they would make sure that scenario wouldn’t play out.

The joint statement read: “Given the requirements of both agencies, the Department and the Ministry are working together to deliver observer coverage in the inshore area.

“During 2009/10, observer days are combined and will be delivered on the western, eastern and southern coasts of the South Island and the west coast of the North Island.”

Observers will collect one set of data for both agencies, which will then use it for their own purposes.

Unfortunately for the fishermen, the costs won’t be combined.

The MFish summer observer programme will cover 900 inshore trawl and setnet days at a cost of $1 million.

The DOC programme will cover 200 setnet days at a cost of $170,000, 250 inshore bottom longline days at a cost of $212,500 and 300 inshore trawl days at a cost of $255,000, all paid for by fishing levies.

“The costs of observer coverage are spread across multiple stocks so that all fishers targeting those stocks in the areas where observer coverage is planned will share the cost of observer coverage,” according to the statement.

Overall DOC has allocated $1,217,412.82 for observing commercial fisheries during the 2009/2010 fishing season, including $143,501.12 for administration costs.

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