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NZ Import Catfish to the Peril of the People

NEW ZEALAND - A recent decision by MAF Biosecurity NZ to allow the importation of Vietnamese catfish (Basa) will devastate the New Zealand inshore fishery industry says Doug Saunders-Loder, Chairman of the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen.

“Vietnamese catfish (Pangasius) and Tilapia are farmed in the Mekong River which is reported to have untreated sewage from up to 60 million people discharged into it” he noted.

New Zealand has now legalised the importation of this fish species despite the fact that numerous valid questions have been raised by respected environmental agencies about the Vietnamese operations in terms of water pollution and chemicals including malachite green, a known carcinogen!

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are quoted as noting the following:

Health management, antibiotics and chemicals: Pangasius farms are prone to health problems that can impact farmed and wild stocks. Also, the inappropriate use of antibiotics and chemicals can have unintended consequences on the environment and human health, such as antibiotic resistance and unsafe products.

“Because child labour is used and environmental standards are minimal in some Asian countries, the cost of the fish that will be imported into New Zealand, under encouragement from Australian supermarket chains, could be up to half the price of New Zealand fish supplied to supermarkets and fish & chip shops. This could wipe out the inshore fishing industry as the market could be flooded with cheap Asian products” he said.

The New Zealand inshore fishery employs approximately 1,200 inshore fishermen operating out of all the coastal ports throughout New Zealand. These people spend their money within their communities and generate economic benefit for the country. They harvest their fish from the clean green waters of New Zealand and fish in a sustainable manner. It is absolutely crazy to think that the Government would consider allowing such product to enter New Zealand and to compete on the domestic market against our wonderful seafood products. It is one thing to provide the consumer with additional choice but at the absolute least, not to have some indication of the Country of Origin is in actual fact taking the public’s choice away. It is simply misleading.

When Vietnamese catfish importation was allowed in Australia the market for New Zealand Hoki dropped by 90 per cent

New Zealand consumers will not have any way of knowing what they are eating when they order their fish & chips or buy fish products in the supermarket as we have no country of origin labelling requirements in New Zealand.

New Zealanders are proud of their clean green image and, if they knew, would demand fish that comes from clean pure water and harvested in an environmentally sound way. The Prime Minister, just last week noted that “our seafood industry is a model for the rest of the world to follow”

Why then, at a time of increasing unemployment has the Government made the decision to effectively export New Zealand jobs by allowing a Vietnamese catfish product into New Zealand?

the Fish Site Editor

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