A ministerial inquiry will look into the seafood sector’s reliance on migrant workers and how to attract more New Zealanders into the jobs.

No captionOceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker. Photo: RNZ/ Dom Thomas

Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said Covid-19 border restrictions had highlighted the sector’s vulnerability due to its reliance on migrant labour.

That had sped up industry and government efforts to increase New Zealanders’ participation in the sector.

It is estimated the peak number of migrant workers in the sector in the year ending March 2019 was about 1850 (20 percent) although there are likely to be fewer now.

“Some businesses in the sector have reduced their reliance on migrant workers since border restrictions were imposed, but some deep sea vessels in particular are still 100 percent foreign-crewed.”

Commercial seafood activities including deep-sea fishing, inshore fishing, aquaculture activities and seafood processing, will be looked at, he said.

“The inquiry will focus on the sector’s reliance on migrant labour, and how to transition it away from that reliance. It will also examine how to accelerate efforts to attract more New Zealanders into rewarding jobs in the seafood sector,” Parker said.

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) principal economist Peter Wilson will chair the inquiry team, which will report back by 29 October.

Parker said the seafood sector would have an opportunity to have input into the inquiry.