Serious incident on fishing vessel confirms fears

A serious injury to a Government fisheries observer shows the clean up of the fishing industry is not moving fast enough.

Fisheries observer Martin Bowers had his arm yanked from its socket and his forearm mutilated when his lifejacket became snagged on a conveyor belt on a Korean fishing vessel south of Bluff on Friday night.

He is now recovering after being winched from the vessel by a rescue helicopter and having his arm amputated below the elbow at Dunedin Hospital.

The Government announced in 2012 that joint venture foreign fishing vessels would have to be reflagged to the New Zealand flag by 2016, bringing them under New Zealand health and safety regulations.

Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the incident reinforces the view of the Union that any further delays in reflagging are putting crews and observers at risk through conditions on some vessels.

“The reflagging of these joint venture vessels is not going to happen until 2016 which we have said from the beginning is too long and too soft on the operators.”

“It is likely that another serious incident will occur in this timeframe based on the history of the industry.”

He says the reflagging should happen by the end of this year at the latest as serious incidents and harm were still occurring.

Mr Fleetwood says the Sur Este 700 has already been in the news after it struck rocks and spilled diesel fuel near Stewart Island in April 2013, requiring an expensive surveillance operation.

A sister vessel, the Sur Este 707, was raided by Government agencies in Timaru in February 2013. Officers from Immigration New Zealand, the Labour Inspectorate and representatives from other agencies, including the police and Maritime New Zealand visited the Sur Este 707.

In a statement, MBIE said their investigation followed information provided by a government fishery observer who noted possible issues with vessel safety, excessive hours of crew work and falsification of crew time records.

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