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Bad behaviour brings us all down

Friday 24 July 2020

It’s been a long ten days of scandal in political circles and it has drawn well-deserved public condemnation.

However, it is easy to condemn an entire system for the actions of a few.

National Fisheries spokesman, Ian McKelvie raised this with Seafood New Zealand when we visited him at Parliament yesterday, pointing out that calls to overhaul an entire system when some within it act badly, are not the answer.

You can see where this analogy is heading.

The reputation of the seafood industry, and almost every other sector, can rapidly be tarnished when an individual chooses to go rogue and, while reputations are very hard to build, they are very easy to lose.

That’s why it is very important that the industry is just as vocal in condemning bad behaviour as our opponents.

Take Kevan Clarke, or Clapper as he is known on the Chatham Islands.

Last week, Clapper was found guilty of catching and landing 22.2 tonnes of shellfish and only reporting half of it. That’s an $800,000 theft.

It would be fair to say that the Chatham Island population is pretty angry at Clapper.

So is the rest of the industry and Seafood New Zealand, along with the rock lobster and paua industry organisations were quick to publicly condemn him.

MPI said the scale of his offending displayed an enormous level of greed and disregard of the rules.

We reckon it’s worse than that.

MPI works hard to get these convictions and the courts do what they can to find appropriate redress but often the penalties are not commensurate with the crime.

As Gary Cameron of PauaMAC4 on the Chathams says; who pays the debt to Tangaroa? Should the $150,000 forfeited from Clapper’s property and quota shares be used for good?

Should the punishment include the reseeding of paua beds with the kaimoana he stole? Should the cash from the sale of his vessels go into an education programme so the next generation actually understand that they are guardians, kaitiakitanga, of the resource?

On the Chathams, fishing is sixty percent of their economy. It is also integral to their way of life.

As a community, they have worked very hard to improve their fisheries and are determined to protect them from those who intend to threaten their sustainability.

Gary Cameron says they feel betrayed by someone who let greed blind them and now have to deal with the economic loss to the community and the damage to their shared fishery resource.

The seafood industry is constantly bettering itself, be it through innovative mitigation, better fishing practises, workplace safety or lessening its environmental footprint.

Clapper let us down.

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