Now, you’re probably thinking what does this have to do with Maori. Well, many of the foreign vessels guilty of slave fishing are fishing on behalf of Maori. Maori sell the rights to their catch because, the argument goes, Maori do not have the capacity to fish their quota themselves. This is true, but it’s also a massive cop out.
Maori unemployment is more than double the national rate. With that in mind, iwi should be doing all they can to create jobs. Iwi should have Maori crew working Maori owned vessels. Of course, some have argued that iwi can’t afford to own their own boats. First of all, this isn’t true of all iwi. Secondly, if iwi can’t afford to own and crew their own vessels, and I strongly suspect this isn’t true, why not invest in bareboat chartering. This involves hiring an empty boat, providing your own crew and fishing your quota. Jobs are created and the cost of owning the vessel isn’t a factor. And, importantly, the slave fishing issue is eliminated.
The decision to contract out, read iwi’s decision to sell their quota, is nothing more than a ruthless business decision. Selling ones quota is more profitable than investing in fishing it yourself – in the short term at least. Taking the long view, it makes more sense to invest in your own vessels and crew and, as a result, create sustainable jobs and a more diverse and resilient Maori economy.
If iwi leaders fail to move on this issue, then they’re morally bankrupt. They are, in other words, complicit in slavery. If this was Maori getting, say, raped at sea you can bet that iwi leaders would be encouraging Maori to blow up Parliament.
At the moment, the only Maori seeing the benefits of the Maori fishing quota are the iwi elite. Maori aren’t in fishing jobs and the revenue that is generated from contracting out our quota certainly isn’t “trickling down”. We should demand better.