Shame on the high seas

September 20, 2015
By

The Catch,

by Michael Field (Awa Press $40):

The tagline on this book is “How fishing companies reinvented slavery and plunder the oceans”, and that’s exactly what it’s about.

Michael Field has done an outstanding job outlining the disgraceful state of conditions on foreign charter vessels fishing in New Zealand waters for New Zealand quota.

The Catch is a fascinating, yet horrifying, expose of the dark and complex world of the deep-sea fishing industry. He patiently takes the reader through the complex situation that is the quota system and gradually builds up a comprehensive picture of the state of the industry. It’s a weighty subject and Field has carried out extensive research but it’s not a difficult read – he’s used all his skills as a journalist to weave an easily readable story around some shameful operations.

He highlights numerous cases of modern slavery, of unsafe and abhorrent working environments, and fishing practices that are wasteful, environmentally damaging and usually illegal, all happening in New Zealand waters. Sadly, he leaves you in no doubt that the wholesale pillage of our fishing stocks is well advanced – and more importantly been ignored at the highest levels of government (at least until July 31 when a bill that had languished for two years was finally passed on parliament’s last sitting day. Its passing means from May 2016 boats fishing for New Zealand quota will need to be flagged to New Zealand and thus fall under New Zealand laws and regulations).

Field has written the New Zealand version of Charles Clover’s The End of the Line, the highly acclaimed “blazingly powerful indictment” into the global effects of industrial fishing. It’s deplorable that he’s had to write the book considering New Zealand’s fishing industry is often held up as a glowing light in a murky world, but each case he highlights simply reinforces his message that things have been wrong for some time.

The practices he outlines are stripping the world’s seas and threatening the food supply of millions of people. This is something consumers need to be aware of and Field’s book should be enlightened reading for every fish eater in New Zealand. Because if it continues, at some point, there will be no more fish.

Footnote: Michael Field is a journalist with Fairfax, the company that owns The Southland Times.

Mark Hotton

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