A series of shocking images showing dead dolphins, sea lions and yellow eyed penguins has been released by environmental group Forest & Bird, who say they show the destructive practices used by the New Zealand fishing industry.
The images, purporting to show by-catch swept up in catches made by the fishing industry, were obtained by Forest & Bird through the Official Information Act.
"These are the images the fishing industry doesn’t want you to see," says Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague.
Along with the images Forest & Bird also released excerpts from letters that were sent to the Ministry of Primary Industries by various commercial fishing organisations looking to stop the public from ever seeing the controversial images.
One excerpt about the release of by-catch images reads: "New Zealand's international reputation as a reputable source of quality, sustainably-produced seafood could be significantly impaired."
Forest & Bird's Mr Hague had a strong response to the statements made by the fishing industry in the letters to MPI.
"In plain English, what they are saying is catching endangered penguins, dumping entire hauls of fish overboard and killing Hectors dolphins looks really bad on TV.
"Well, the solution is to stop doing it, not to hide the evidence. It's hard to think of a more credibility-damaging activity than trying to change the law to so the rest of us can't see what's really happening out there.
"Commercial fishing is vulnerable to criticism, not because it's being misrepresented by media or environmental advocates, but because New Zealanders are shocked by what the fishing industry has got away with," he said in a statement released today.
Fairfax reports that MPI fisheries managing director Stuart Anderson, says the Minister of Fisheries is working with MPI officials to develop options for the roll-out of digital monitoring.
"Industry has proposed changes to how fisheries data held by MPI should be released. Those proposals are being considered alongside other options including maintaining the status quo. No decision has been made yet," he told Fairfax.
"There are many elements to consider carefully in balancing the responsibilities of transparency and public interest while protecting privacy and other sensitive information."