Yesterday I blogged about a report that an un-named fishing company was allegedly plundering the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. While this is illegal, the penalties in the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 have not been updated for at least 15 years, have been eroded due to inflation, and clearely provide no deterrant.
In response to that post, Mike McGavin pointed out Jacqui Dean's Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill, which is currently seeking submissions before the Local Government and Environment Committee. The bill updates the penalties for numerous bits of conservation legislation to correct for the effects of inflation and bring them more into line with modern environmental values. However, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 is not one of them. Mike suggested I submit on the bill proposing that it also amend penalties under this Act - and that's exactly what I've done. Here's my submission below:
- I support the Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill and ask that it be passed with the amendments below.
- The bill updates the penalty clauses of various conservation and wildlife protection legislation to correct for the effects of inflation and bring them more into line with the penalties in more modern legislation. In some cases these penalties have not been updated for more than thirty years, making them nominal and severely reducing their deterrent value.
- However, the bill makes a significant oversight in not updating penalties for offences under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Like the Acts in this bill, the Act is administered by the Department of Conservation. Section 23 of the Act provides for a penalty of a $30,000 fine for purse seining in a marine mammal sanctuary, and a $10,000 fine for any other offence under the Act. The penalties have not been updated since at least 1996, and have been significantly eroded by inflation. Other legislation - for example the Marine Reserves Act 1971 - provides for much stronger penalties for violating similarly important conservation areas, including the forfeiture of fishing vessels upon conviction. The penalties for violating a Marine Mammal sanctuary should be increased to a similar level.
- The need for a stronger penalties regime in this Act has been brought to my attention by a media report of fishing companies plundering the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. The law is clearly not acting as a deterrent to this behaviour. While s25(g) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 means that increased penalties will not be able to be applied to any prosecution in this case, they will hopefully deter others from doing so in the future.
- I do not wish to appear before the Committee.