Chinese-flagged fishing vessels caught out in exclusive NZ waters

A navy offshore patrol vessel: HMNZS Otago.

LAC Grant Armishaw/NZDF

A navy offshore patrol vessel: HMNZS Otago.

There has been drama on the high seas after the New Zealand navy and government officials boarded two Chinese flagged fishing vessels suspected of serious fishing violations in New Zealand waters.

One of them was caught with an illegal haul of highly lucrative Southern Blue Fin Tuna.

The boats are understood to have attracted attention after being spotted in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone during an air force surveillance flight.

The Southern Blue Fin Tuna is so highly prized, one Japanese sushi chain recently paid more than $100,000 for a single 441-pound fish.

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The Government is understood to have been briefed this week that two Chinese flagged vessels had been found committing serious fishing violations in New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone during routine operations conducted by the Ministry for Primary Industries and navy and air force personnel.

Labour’s fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene said he was aware of the incident and it was a “gross violation”.

“Apparently it’s pretty shocking,” he said.

“So widespread are violations of fisheries laws, you’ve got Chinese vessels, they aren’t even permitted to be catching Southern bluefin tuna obviously, purging the oceans of our neighbours and also having no regard for seabirds and sharks and other species.

The revelations were part of New Zealand’s daily annual monitoring, he said, but “this is something that’s going on all the time”.

“I understanding they boarded 71 vessels, and they found 48 breaches across a range of different violations, from being unlicensed to catching species you’re not suppose to.

“It’s just concerning because we can put all the sanctuaries that we want in place but right on our high seas borders you’ve got just extreme disregard going on to our high seas fishing resource.

“It’s one thing to do the patrolling but we really need to push for more tougher sanctions, blacklisting of vessels, and put more pressure on.”

He urged the Government to be “proactive” in talking to China about this issue.

News of the fishing violations come as diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China are tested over complaints about steel dumping.

Under international law, the State to which vessels are flagged is responsible for acting against any that are in breach of the rules.

Chinese authorities have recently cooperated in seizing illegal toothfish catch.

* Comment has been sought from

 – Stuff