Winter grazing deferment a win for agriculture lobbyists

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Winter Grazing
The Government has deferred imposing almost all of its proposed winter grazing regulations for a year, a move that’s been met with scorn from environmentalists and animal advocates.
Winter grazing - a practice where livestock are strip-fed a crop, often in extremely muddy conditions - has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.

In 2019, winter grazing hit the headlines when environmentalist Angus Robson went public with his campaign to expose what had been happening on farms across the country. The photos and videos of cows standing and giving birth in muddy paddocks prompted Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor to launch a winter grazing taskforce.

The Agriculture Minister and David Parker, the Environment Minister, proposed a suite of new rules to improve winter grazing practices, which agriculture lobbyists decried as unworkable. They protested, and the Government’s latest announcement indicates that the lobbyists have won.

Parker and O’Connor announced recently that they would allow the industry to self regulate for the next year, allowing Farmers to develop their own so-called ‘modules’ to manage their winter grazing practices.

In a statement, Parker said the deferment will allow an intensive winter grazing farm plan module to be developed, tested and deployed ready for formal incorporation into wider certified freshwater farm plans in 2022.

Not everyone is happy about this. In fact, many people are deeply unhappy about this. Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Steve Abel said the Government had been ‘owned’ by big dairy, calling the decision ‘pathetic’.

SAFE CEO Debra Ashton questioned what the Government would do to ensure the welfare of animals in the interim.

Green MP Eugenie Sage said it’s a bad outcome for rivers and animal welfare.
Commercial fishing
Conservationists are calling for mandatory measures to protect the overfishing of Tarakihi. This was after the fishing industry admitted to breaking its promise to follow voluntary restrictions.

Forest and Bird said last week that Tarakihi have been fished down to 15 per cent of their original levels, well below the 40 per cent minimum level considered safe from overfishing.

In 2019, Stuart Nash, the fisheries minister at the time, decided to take a phased approach to rebuild the tarakihi population, making an initial 20 per cent cut to commercial fishing quotas, but then pulled back for a 10 per cent reduction instead.

But Stuff has now reported, in a briefing to Fisheries Minister David Parker, Fisheries Inshore chairman Laws Lawson admitted fishing boats were failing to keep out of areas they promised not to fish, putting juvenile Tarakihi at risk.

A report, titled The future of commercial fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand, was prepared by the Prime Minister's chief science advisor Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard. It suggested more needs to be done to reduce gaps in data and knowledge, noting that while we have a lot of data about the ocean, in many ways we also know frighteningly little.

Dr Michael Plank, a professor at the University of Canterbury who was on the panel responsible for preparing the report, said the findings stressed the importance of taking a holistic view of the ocean. He said one of the things the report identifies is the need to move towards managing ecosystems as a whole, rather than managing individual species.

Salmon farming

Footage of Compassion in World Farming’s undercover investigation and an accompanying report released on Wednesday uncovered the grim reality for many fish raised in Scotland’s salmon farming industry. Their findings were released by a global network of 40 NGOs in over 30 countries, including SAFE in New Zealand.

Scotland is the third-largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon worldwide and exports fish to over 50 countries. The industry produced about 38 million fish in 2019 and the Scottish Government is planning to allow massive industry expansion by 2030.

Over 22 Scottish farms were investigated between September and November 2020 using drone technology and underwater divers. On several farms, investigators found severe sea lice infestations and high levels of mortalities. As many as a quarter of the fish die before they make it to slaughter.

The investigators also found fish crammed in barren underwater cages. Salmon are natural migrators, but in fish farming systems they have nothing to do but swim aimlessly in cramped conditions for up to two years. Compassion in World Farming is now calling for a moratorium on the expansion of Scottish salmon farming, with a view to phasing out intensive salmon farming.

New Zealand farms king salmon, not Atlantic salmon, but the investigation raises questions about how salmon are farmed in New Zealand. Broadly speaking, we farm salmon in very similar ways, and now that we know what’s happening in Scotland, there are justifiable concerns for salmon farmed in New Zealand.

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