MFish seizes vessel and catch
12 March 2004
Ministry of Fisheries officers seized the 43-metre fishing trawler Seamount Explorer and its catch soon after its arrival in Auckland on Wednesday.
The vessel, with an estimated value of $4,500,000, operated by Auckland based company Antons Trawling Company Limited, had previously been ordered to return to port.
The vessel Seamount Explorer was identified in the orange roughy fishing grounds on the west coast of the North Island, which have restricted catch limits.
Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager Brendon Mikkelsen saidFisheries Officers on board the HMZS Manawanui, which was patrolling the areas, repeatedly ordered the fishing trawler to change course so they could board it. However, although all commercial fishing vessels are required by law to monitor VHF channel 16, and respond when directed by a Government vessel, the Ministry alleges Seamount Explorer did not respond.
Mr Mikkelsen said the vessel was pursued by HMZS Manawanui for several hours before eventually being boarded by fishery officers at about 2.15am the following morning.
Brendon Mikkelsen says MFish was very concerned that the Seamount Explorer's Satellite Monitoring System (VMS) was not continuing to poll the vessel's position, as required by law.
"It is imperative that all commercial fishing vessels with Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on board ensure that they are polling their positions as required by law," he said. "This is one of the key ways in which we are able to protect New Zealand's vital fishing resources in what is after all a very big area of ocean."
On arrival in Auckland, the Seamount Explorer and its catch were seized by Fishery Officers, who found a catch estimated at 40 tonnes, about 20 tonnes of which was orange roughy. A quantity of what Fishery Officers believe could be black coral was also found on board. Black coral is a prohibited species.
The Ministry used electronic, technical and computer forensic specialists in their search of the vessel, and a sample of the orange roughy found on board is currently being tested.
Brendon Mikkelsen says a range of alleged fisheries offences are being investigated and enquiry is continuing into the vessel's fishing activities. No decision has yet been made in relation to the outcome.
"The commercial operator and skipper of the Seamount Explorer will, of course, have an opportunity to make a formal explanation concerning the alleged offending," he said
The vessel has now been released to the owner and commercial operator under Ministry of Fisheries bond.
Note: The HMZS Manawanui naval patrol was part of regular joint defence and fisheries' waters zone protection. Fishery Officers based at Whangarei, Auckland and Tauranga were involved in this operation, together with support from Fisheries Control Centre staff based at Wellington.
For more information please contact:
Brendon MikkelsenDistrict Compliance Manager Tauranga.
Phone: (07) 574 5109
Mobile: (0274) 913 118.