The environmental charity Forest & Bird has been issued a challenge by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.

That is to engage positively rather than continue as an arch-critic of the commercial fishing industry.

“Using 10-year-old pictures to represent the 2018 fisheries industry is not only dishonest, but incredibly damaging,” he told F&B’s annual conference in Wellington last weekend.

That was in reference to a widely circulated picture of common dolphins caught in a trawl that is being used in a campaign calling for cameras on boats.

“It does no good to forming constructive dialogue,” Nash said.

“Forest & Bird has an important role to play – if you want to – in helping to successfully drive change, but my plea to you is work constructively with myself, the industry and officials.

“Celebrate success when you see it and hold those to account when they deserve to be, but don’t characterise an industry by the actions of a few or the practices of the past.

“A key point to make is that we all want the same thing.

“If you think any fisherman enjoys pulling up a net or reeling in a line and finding a dolphin, penguin, seal or seabird, then you are sorely mistaken.

“In fact, I would argue that a healthy majority of fishermen and women are actually conservationists under most definitions.

“Some aren’t and this is the challenge.

“So if we are to achieve our collective vision, we actually all have to work together.

‘If you think that all fishermen and women are evil people who disobey the law and seek money over sustainability then I am sad to say you will never make any progress.”

He said he had delivered a similar message to the seafood industry, that if all fishers believed that all environmentalists wanted to end fishing, they would never be as successful as they could be.

He believed the greater the value we can add to our fisheries, the bigger the incentive to “get it right”.

“The more powerful Brand New Zealand is in international markets and the higher the premium that a global consumer will pay for fish caught from New Zealand, then the greater the incentive to innovate both on shore and at sea.

“If, on the other hand, we destroy our brand, then we run the very real risk of returning to being exporters of bulk commodities with not a cent of value added because brand New Zealand will mean nothing or carries no premium.”

As a new Minister, Nash said he had taken over a division of the Ministry for Primary Industries that was distrusted by the commercial sector, mainly due to the feeling that a proper consultation process had not been followed around electric monitoring and cameras.

But it was also loathed by the recreational and NGO sectors because they thought the officials were in the pocket of the industry.

He launched Fisheries New Zealand to help distance fisheries from MPI, which he perceived to be “a rather toxic brand”.

Building relationships and working with key stakeholders had been a focus.

The cameras on boats rollout had been delayed but he was developing a Cabinet paper on revised implementation.

And given Nash’s frequent assurances on proper consultation and transparency, the industry expects to be given due opportunity for meaningful input.

Change is coming, he assured.

“And I absolutely believe that you will add more value if you are in the tent contributing, rather than outside throwing stones,” he told conference delegates.

The challenge is there.

The question is whether it will be taken up.