The Maritime Union says cash bounties being offered for missing overseas fishing crew members is extremely dangerous and is of dubious legality.
Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says he is concerned about a new trend that has private operators fronting up big money to track down missing crew members.
An advertisement placed in the Otago Daily Times today offers an $1000 bounty for information about missing crew member Kismo Pakistan who left his vessel the FV Oyang 70 in Dunedin on 5 June 2007.
The contact listed in the advertisement was Fisheries Consultancy Limited of Lyttelton and the advertisement was authorized by Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Limited of Christchurch.
Mr Hanson says having a cash bounty would encourage criminal and unsavoury elements to get involved, endangering both the missing fisherman and anyone who happens to look like him.
“The potential for standover tactics, exploitation and abuse is substantial.”
He says that if individuals have left ships and are in breach of their work visa, then it was the job of Government authorities to locate the missing individuals.
“It is not the job of fishing companies to act as the Sheriff, Judge, Jury and Executioner – we are not in the Wild West.”
He says shipjumping crew are not bad people.
“There are many reasons that foreign fishermen jump ship, in some cases it is because they want a better life, they may be breaking the law but they must be treated as human beings and we should remember that many people who came to New Zealand were doing exactly the same thing.”
He says the sad thing is the amount of money that is being offered for a reward would seem like a fortune for young, impoverished fishing crews from the Third World.
Mr Hanson says that there is a widely acknowledged international problem with fishing crews being mistreated and underpaid.
“We don’t want any of these practices to become established in New Zealand waters, and we know that in the past there have been a number of incidents that have led to Government action.”
“We thought that moves by the Government to tighten up on bad practices in the industry last year would have pulled a few horns in, but it seems that certain players want to continue to push the boundaries.”
Mr Hanson says the Maritime Union says that fishing companies in New Zealand waters should be made to employ New Zealanders on decent wages.
He says that if any overseas crews are used they should be on the same terms and conditions as New Zealand workers.