Maritime News

New Zealand union denounces fishing code of practice

14 July 2011

Indonesian fishermen*
Indonesian fishers: among those who are exploited and abused*

A maritime union has criticised a code of practice that covers fishing crew employed in New Zealand waters claiming it fails to protect them from abuse and exploitation.

Helen McAra, general secretary of the ITF-affiliated New Zealand Merchant Service Guild, made the statement in relation to the plight of an Indonesian fishing crew on board a Korean trawler; they jumped ship claiming that they had been underpaid and had suffered ill-treatment at the hands of the ship's Korean officers. The vessel, Oyang 75, is being detained in Lyttelton following an order from Maritime New Zealand, the government body responsible for maritime affairs. The department of labour is investigating the allegations of abuse under the fishing code of practice.

“The NZ code of practice covering foreign charter fishing crews employed in New Zealand waters was designed to stop crew escaping slave conditions, rather than to protect them from exploitation and abuse”, said McAra.

Under the code of practice, crew members’ passports are confiscated when they arrive in New Zealand and they are “escorted” to and from the vessel. There is also a provision that allows visitors to vessels to be surveilled.

“The code reads like a handbook for prison wardens,” she claimed. “The strong inference to be drawn from the code is that its main motivation is to restrict free movement of the crew, and any access to them by people trying to assist them.”

Although the code also contained increased minimum wage rates for overseas crew, the labour department did not employ extra staff to monitor the new wage rates nor did it have the resources to do so, she said.

The guild has frequently acted for overseas fishing crewmembers who have not been paid.

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