“This funding will help introduce the world-leading Integrated Electronic Monitoring and Reporting System (IEMRS), which will give us arguably the most transparent and accountable commercial fishery anywhere in the world,” Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said.
The intention is that vessel position monitoring and electronic catch reporting will begin on Oct 1 this year.
This will be followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from Oct 1 next year.
This means that every fishing vessel can be monitored at all times, no matter where they are, and any illegal activity dealt with, according to MPI.
The changes, which Mr Guy has said are part of the biggest alteration to fishing laws in a generation, are key parts of a Future Of Our Fisheries review launched in 2015.
The industry deserves credit for accepting these changes, he said.
“Commercial fishers are hard working and most want to do what’s right to ensure fish stocks remain at sustainable levels.”
But implementing such far reaching changes is no simple task.
There are currently 1356 quota owners, 1176 vessels, 206 licensed fish receivers and 994 permit holders to be brought into the system.
There is no software currently available to enable electronic reporting and some fundamental details are still to be settled.
These include what data is required to be reported, how often and to whom, and by what mechanism.
These details have significant ramifications for the hardware required, sourcing, installation, training and, not least, cost.
Industry is committed to working with the regulator in the interests of better fisheries management but the uncertainty and a timeframe of just four months for the first phase are causing anxiety.
So, too, is a proposal to include environmental NGOs in an IEMRS implementation advisory group.
If some of those antagonistic to commercial fishing bring their well-aired prejudices to the table, rather than engaging constructively, then the exercise will become a shambles.
If MPI is determined to proceed in this vein then it will need to tightly manage it within the parameters already proscribed.
MPI's project leader Stuart Anderson assured the Federation of Commercial Fishermen conference in New Plymouth yesterday that Greenpeace, Forest & Bird and Legacy would have the opportunity to provide feedback but it was not a technical or decision-making group.
The industry supports collection of good information to improve decision quality but that data needs to be relevant, cost effective and necessary to meet clear management objectives.
Grandstanding by extremists will only delay that outcome.
Industry has demonstrated it is willing to work on resolving current issues.
There was considerable focus last year on allegations of discarding and where this is occurring, the fishing industry has acknowledged the need to improve practices.
This is a complex area that fisheries worldwide have struggled with.
What is not widely understood is that there are a wide range of circumstances that lead to catch being returned to the sea.
Many are legal obligations, such as fish under the minimum size limit.
Some are legally provided for, such as unwanted non-quota species. Although counter-intuitive for some, there are also cases where discarding is consistent with the purpose of the Fisheries Act.
In a system as complex and sophisticated as the QMS, it is all too easy for well-intentioned tinkering to undermine the fundamental tenets of the QMS. Great care is needed. To ensure we get this right, MPI should form a joint working party to test and refine policy settings to ensure the integrity of the QMS is maintained, and the Fisheries Settlement with Maori is not undermined.
In the past the seafood sector has offered to work constructively with MPI to resolve landings and discards issues but a previous working party was disbanded in 2014.
Discarding has always been permitted across some stocks, Labour fisheries spokesman Rino Tirikatene acknowledged at the federation conference.
"It needs more sophisticated management to ensure we get more consistency across the inshore fishery," he said.
He was taking part in a political panel that also included Greens environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage, local National MP Jonathan Young and New Zealand First fisheries spokesman Richard Prosser.
Mr Tirikatene also suggested removing fisheries from the wider primary industries ministry, as was previously the case.
"We need better fisheries management capacity within MPI to act in a timely manner, rather than just kicking the can down the road for decades.
"It's not getting the settings right."
In some cases, however, the fishing industry is ahead of the game.
Observers, paid for by the industry, are embedded across the inshore and deepwater fleets and their contribution is valued.
Where they fit into the new order is unclear.
The snapper1 fleet based on the Hauraki Gulf already has cameras installed under a trial that has been under way for some time.
A vessel monitoring system is standard on deepwater vessels and some larger inshore vessels, showing exactly where each one is at any given time.
As longline fisher Adam Clow, who has a camera on his boat which was shown on a recent Country Calendar programme, said: “That’s fine, we have nothing to hide”.
The outcome is not at issue. The means of getting there is the concern.