Does he have confidence in New Zealand’s fisheries management system, in particular, how it deals with bycatch?
Yes. New Zealand has an internationally recognised fisheries management system. Of course, we are constantly introducing improvements.
Is it possible that the country’s favourite emperor penguin, Happy Feet, was killed by a trawler?
I call the Hon Phil Heatley, in so far as the Minister has responsibility for Happy Feet.
It is highly improbable, because my officials had a screen of Happy Feet’s transponder next to a screen of fishing vessels’ transponders, and they never came near to each other.
Given that the Minister, in his response to questions for written answer, identified that there were nine southern blue whiting trawlers recorded within 20 to 50 nautical miles of Happy Feet’s last known location, how can he say it is highly unlikely that he was killed by a trawler?
I can report that when Happy Feet’s transponder turned off, the nearest southern blue whiting fishing vessel was 32 kilometres away. Its fishing lines are not 32 kilometres long.
I really want to. I have heard it said that Happy Feet may very well have become a happy meal.
I realise that this is the last question of this parliamentary term, but I still want to hear it.
Given that a southern blue whiting trawler can cover 50 nautical miles in a day—and we are talking about an incredibly long net that is almost half a kilometre wide and 75 metres high—how can the Minister claim that it is very unlikely that Happy Feet was possibly trawled by a southern blue whiting trawler?
The reason I say it is highly unlikely is that when Happy Feet’s transponder—or whatever we call it—turned off, the closest vessel was 32 kilometres away. That would have meant that the vessel raced the transponder’s emission, which went probably faster than—or close to—the speed of light. That would have been a very fast fishing vessel, indeed.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very good answer, but it did not get to the question, which was whether a trawler can cover 50 nautical miles in a day.
I think the Minister gave a pretty fair answer as to why he believes that the trawler could not have caught Happy Feet, because of the difference in the speed of the transponder’s signal compared with a trawler’s speed. I think that is a reasonable answer to that question, but the member does have some more supplementary questions to pursue the matter.
Would Happy Feet have had any chance of survival had he been captured by a southern blue whiting trawler, given that the net is 400 metres wide and 75 metres high and that the vessel can trawl for 6 to 8 hours at a time?
I hate to sink the member further, but unfortunately the fact is that the closest vessel to Happy Feet when the transponder went off was the Tangaroa, which was the boat that released Happy Feet.
I apologise to the member, but—[ Interruption] Colleagues, please. I believe we have only a couple more questions, so if we could just hold it together for that length of time.
Is the Minister concerned that a southern blue whiting fishery not only posed a possible threat to the emperor penguin Happy Feet but also is the fishery of the highest bycatch of New Zealand fur seals, and also captures seabirds and critically endangered sea lions?
As I said, I am reasonably convinced that a southern blue whiting vessel did not catch Happy Feet. We are always disappointed about bycatch, but the industry is working very well with the Ministry of Fisheries to minimise this.
Will the Minister consider stopping the destructive practice of bottom trawling, with its devastating effects on the marine environment and endangered species and the risk to our fisheries image globally, given that last week the Guardian ran an article on New Zealand’s Hector’s dolphin that was covered prominently in the UK media? Is that a risk to our “clean, green” brand?