Nelson Court Imposes Big Fines For Breaches Of Fisheries ACT (27 August 1999)
A Japanese shipping company, the company president and a New Zealand representative of a Japanese fishing company were today convicted on fisheries charges, in the Nelson District Court.
Combined penalties of $105,000 were imposed by the Court against Azia Kaiun Co. Ltd ($25,000), the company President Mr Yoshio Namba ($75,000) and Japanese fishing company representative Gang Xu ($5,000) for making false and misleading statements. Costs of $21,000 were also ordered by the Court.
Commenting after the case, Ministry of Fisheries Deputy Compliance, Mr Dave Wood, said the penalties sent a strong message that New Zealand Courts would treat any breach of the Fisheries Act very seriously indeed. Mr Wood said Fisheries compliance staff had done a superb job in preparing a watertight case against the defendants in a very short time frame.
The M/V Taisetsu is a 92.23 metre fish carrier vessel, licensed to operate in the NZ 200 mile EEZ as a fishing support vessel. While the Taisetsu is operated by Greek company, it is chartered to Azia Kaiun Co. Ltd, a company incorporated in Japan. The M/V Taisetsu was present in New Zealand for the purpose of transhipping vessels owned by a Japanese fishing company Anyo Fisheries Ltd.
Following an incident in 1995, Japanese officials and the Japanese fishing industry banned the Azia Kaiun company from operating fish carriers in NZ waters. Mr Namba was the president of the company at the time. He provided false information to Japanese officials in order to obtain the licence in New Zealand. Had Mr Namba provided the correct name of the charterer the application would never have been approved.
On 16 July 1999 permission was requested for the M/V Taisetsu to leave the New Zealand EEZ and bunker a carrier vessel which was very low on fuel.
The Ministry of Fisheries was advised that the vessel to be bunkered was the Yue Yang Kun, and an assurance was given that the vessel would continue to operate its satellite tracking device.
The Taisetsu left Nelson on the same day, however, the ship's satellite tracking device ceased operating until the Ministry requested an explanation on 21 July when the equipment recommenced operating. Throughout the entire voyage outside the EEZ, the tracking device failed to operate. The Taisetsu's logbook recorded that the vessel bunkered was the M/V Yue Yang Kun.
On 22 July 1999, Fishery Officers inspected the M/V Taisetsu at Port Nelson. The master confirmed that the vessel had met with the Korean carrier M/V Yue Yang Kun on 18 July 1999. Examination of the satellite tracking device on the vessel found that the most likely cause of the failure to report was that it was turned off.
Subsequent enquiries made with Australian authorities who had been tracking the M/V Yue Yang Kun confirmed that it could not have been bunkered by the Taisetsu on 18-19 July.
Members of the Ministry's Serious Offences Unit and Nelson compliance staff commenced "Operation Switch" to determine the activities of the M/V Taisetsu between 16 and 21 July 1999. On 20 August the M/V Taisetsu was seized by fishery officers on the basis that it was believed to have been used in the commission of fisheries offences.
Investigations found that the vessel which was provided with fuel was actually the fishing vessel F/V Sur Este, operating under charter to a Hong Kong company. This vessel had been fishing in the South Tasman Rise orange roughy fishery without permission. This fishery is the subject of a bilateral agreement between New Zealand and Australia.
When questioned, the NZ representative Mr Gang Xu, admitted he had been instructed by Azia Kaiun Co. Ltd to arrange the necessary exemptions to allow the M/V Taisetsu to bunker outside the New Zealand EEZ.
The company President, Yoshio Namba, admitted that Azia Kaiun Co. Ltd had been banned from operating in New Zealand in 1995. Notwithstanding this, he continued to send carrier vessels to New Zealand fisheries waters by supplying false information to the Japanese government knowing that they would supply that information to the Ministry of Fisheries.
Namba also admitted that Azia Kaiun Co. Ltd chartered the M/V Yue Yang Kun. It was the M/V Yue Yang Kun that had been contracted to tranship and bunker the F/V Sur Este. Mechanical problems with the M/V Yue Yang Kun prevented it from completing the bunkering at the agreed time. Because the F/V Sur Este was low on fuel Namba made arrangements for the M/V Taisetsu the meet the vessel and bunker fuel.
Namba admitted that he knew that the F/V Sur Este could not enter the EEZ of Australia or New Zealand, and that this was why he arranged for the M/V Taisetsu to meet it.
He admitted that he knew the Ministry of Fisheries was unlikely to grant the necessary exemptions if the correct details of the vessel to be bunkered were provided. He also admitted that when the false information was provided to Xu, he knew that the information would be communicated to the Ministry of Fisheries. Namba admitted that through his actions each party had been mislead.
The Fisheries Act 1983 makes it an offence for any person to provide a communication for the purposes of the Fisheries Act 1983 which contains a false or misleading statement.
The license allowing the Taisetsu to operate in the New Zealand zone has been revoked and the vessel will shortly leave NZ waters.