MFISH SAYS COURT CASE A WARNING ON FOREIGN FLAGGED VESSELS
25 May 2001
The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) says a court case, heard today in the Wellington District Court, should send a message to all fishing companies that it is important to exercise effective control over foreign flagged vessels when they use them to fish in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In the Wellington District Court today Raukura Moana Fisheries pleaded guilty to 10 charges against Section 96(b) of the Fisheries Act 1983, the company was convicted and fined $13,000 on each charge. The total fine being $130,000.
The charges related to the 1998/99 fishing year, when four foreign flagged vessels chartered to Raukura Moana Fisheries fished in the West Coast hoki fishery. The masters of these vessels failed to declare taking 495 tonnes of hoki and quota and non-quota by-catch.
Raukura Moana Fisheries pleaded guilty on the basis that it is responsible for the actions of the masters, and because the masters have no defence it accepts it has no defence. The company acknowledged it should have known the masters were offending and that it failed to take all reasonable steps to adequately supervise the actions of the masters.
Under the Fisheries Act, New Zealand permit holders are allowed to register foreign flagged vessels as New Zealand fishing vessels, and this system has allowed NZ operators to develop fishing businesses without the capital expenditure of having to acquire New Zealand flagged vessels.
Under this regime the permit holder is primarily responsible for the activities of the vessel while fishing within the New Zealand exclusive economic zone. Therefore there is a real onus on the New Zealand operator to ensure compliance with New Zealand laws, because it is for the operator's commercial benefit that these vessels are allowed to exploit New Zealand fishery resources.
The Hoki fishery is New Zealand's largest and arguably its most important. A profile of the West Coast hoki fishery has given MFish a means of determining the quantity of fish taken and mis-reported by the masters and the Raukura Moana Fisheries Limited. The profile also provides an ability to determine the value of hoki and the three main by-catch species, which was mis-reported.
"For fisheries management to be effective it must be based on accurate catch and scientific information," MFish said. "It is very difficult to responsibly manage the hoki and by-catch fisheries when one operator, in a matter of four months, fails to report taking 341 tonne of the target species and three major by-catch species, and in relation to all species taken fails to report taking 495 tonnes of quota and non-quota species."
MFish has pointed out that the offending was in the most serious class of offences under the Fisheries Act, and the maximum sentence for this type of offending is $250,000 on each charge. A large quantity of fish was involved --over 495 tonnes, for which the market value is $800,000 to $900,000.
For further information please contact
Dave Wood, National Compliance Manager, Ministry of Fisheries (MFish)
Telephone 021 923 820