Illegal High Seas Rock Lobster Fishing Fined
15 October 2003
Illegal fishing of rock lobster on the high seas has resulted in a heavy cost for Christchurch-based fishing company Vostochnaia Fishing (NZ) Ltd.
The company and its director, Igor Karpenko, were convicted and fined in the Tauranga District Court on Friday (10 October) on charges of taking rock lobster on the high seas for the purpose of sale, using a New Zealand registered ship without a high seas fishing permit.
The company was fined $9000 plus court costs of $130, company director Igor Karpenko was fined $3000 plus court costs of $130, and the company's 34 metre fishing vessel "Chatham Explorer," valued at $130,000, was ordered forfeit to the Crown, together with its catch of rock lobster valued at $30,375.
New Zealand is a party to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) and has an obligation to control the activities of New Zealand-flagged vessels fishing on the high seas. New Zealand's obligations under UNFSA are implemented through the Fisheries Act 1996. Consequently all New Zealand registered ships taking or transporting fish for sale on the high seas must do so under the authority of a high seas permit issued by the Ministry of Fisheries.
The High Seas are defined as "the waters outside the national fisheries jurisdiction of any country"
An increasing number of New Zealand-flagged fishing vessels are seeking opportunities on the high seas. Obligations under the United Nations Law of the Sea and UNFSA apply to all states party to the agreements, including New Zealand, and aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks on the high seas. In some areas of the high seas, specific arrangements for managing fish stocks have been implemented.
Ministry of Fisheries Prosecutor Morgan Dunn told the Court the rock lobster was caught in March and April 2003, at seamounts in the Pacific Ocean approximately half way between Peru and New Zealand, over 1000 nautical miles from the nearest point of land (Easter Island). During this fishing trip, the vessel landed approximately 4757.5 kilograms of whole rock lobster (species Jasus caveorum). This area of seamounts the only place in the world where this species of rock lobster has been identified.
When it finished fishing, the vessel sailed directly to New Zealand and berthed at Tauranga on 9 May. Fishery Officers intercepted and seized the vessel when it entered the port of Tauranga with 2220 kilograms of frozen processed rock lobster on board. The company then sent home the Russian crew and Peruvian Captain.
In explanation, Mr Karpenko denied knowing a high sea fishing permit was required to take the fish. He said he understood that he needed a permit only to unload the fish.
Judge Thomas said Karpenko had turned a blind eye in knowing that he needed a high sea fishing permit to land the fish but did not have a permit when he directed the vessel to fish.
This was the second high seas fishing-related prosecution heard in Tauranga this year