USE OF UNDERSIZED MESH IN COMMERCIAL FISHING
28 April 2004
Tauranga commercial fisherman Seamus Finbarr FITZSIMONS was yesterday (27 April 2004) sentenced in relation to the use of undersize cod-end mesh on a trawl net At the Tauranga District Court, Judge Rollo convicted and fined FITZSIMONS $3,000 for using the illegal cod end with a mesh size of less than 125mm within the 100m contour line
Fisheries Prosecutor Morgan Dunn told the Court that on 6 October 2003 the Ministry of Fisheries patrol launch Takapu was on patrol in the vicinity of Motunau Island in the Bay of Plenty where Fishery Officers boarded the vessel San Cuvier being skippered by the defendant.
At this time Fishery Officers had observed the warps in the water astern of the vessel and recorded the vessel fishing in 80 metres of water.
An inspection of the trawl cod end used revealed that the mesh size was less than the required 125mm. Fishery Officers seized the cod end and fish taken in the trawl.
The vessel was found to be carrying a total of 3 cod ends for a variety of fishing operations and one of these met the required minimum mesh size but was not used. The mean mesh size on two parts of the cod end measured were 101mm and 107 mm
In Court Mr Fitzsimons put forward the explanation that he was setting up the trawl gear when to his alarm realized that had gone inside the restricted area. He said that he took evasive action before realizing that the approaching vessel was a Fisheries patrol launch.
Mr Fitzsimon had been dismissed by his employer soon after the incident. The prohibition on the use of any cod end mesh of less than 125mm inside the 100 metre contour line effectively gives small fish in inshore waters, commonly considered nursery areas, a better chance of escape if taken in a trawl net. The measure targets the snapper fishery in particular.
The maximum penalty for the offence is $100,000. Judge Rollo forfeited the cod end used in the offending, as well as the $460 proceeds of sale of fish caught In sentencing Mr Fitzsimons, Judge Rollo gave Mr Fitzsimons credit for his guilty plea and 35 years of experience in the fishing industry without any previous convictions.
Tauranga District Compliance Manager, Brendon Mikkelsen, said the decision sent a very clear message to commercial fishers, that they are personally liable for this type of offending and that they also expose their employers as permit holders to the risk of potential prosecution.
For further comment please contact
Gary Mc Aneny, Fisheries Officer
Tel 0274 939 966