Fish-dumping charges in east coast hoki fishery
7 September 2007
Three senior crew from a foreign-charter vessel have been charged with illegally dumping fish at sea under the Fisheries Act. These charges were called in the Christchurch District Court today and have been adjourned until 18 September. No pleas were entered.
The vessel was contracted to fish for a New Zealand fishing company and is registered in Malta and has a Polish crew.
Ministry of Fisheries Christchurch Investigations Manager John Slaughter said the charges relate to the vessel fishing for hoki in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone east of the South Island.
Mr Slaughter said crew members approached an MFish observer on board the vessel with evidence from a previous trip of dumping fish in contravention of the Fisheries Act 1996. The alleged offending occurred on a trip between May and July this year.
“MFish compliance staff met the vessel when it came into Lyttelton on Sunday night and have been interviewing crew members this week, resulting in these charges.”
Mr Slaughter said dumping fish undermines the ongoing sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries and was taken extremely seriously by MFish.
The investigation will continue and culpability of other parties involved will also be considered.
What is fish-dumping?
Fish-dumping is the illegal practice of getting rid of less valuable fish, including small and damaged fish, from a vessel’s catch at sea. This allows catches to be made up of more valuable fish. This practice can also be referred to as “high-grading”, as only the highest grade fish are retained.
With some species, bigger fish fetch a better price, so small individuals are dumped. Some species are less valuable and are sometimes dumped. Damaged fish are less valuable and are sometimes dumped.
Why is fish dumping illegal?
New Zealand’s fisheries are carefully managed under the Quota Management System. The QMS sets annual limits for how much of each species can be caught so enough fish are left to breed and ensure the population will be sustainable in the future.
Fishers must report the weight of each fish species they catch, so fisheries managers can ensure limits are not exceeded, and can monitor the health of each fish stock.
When fish is dumped at sea without any reporting, these fish are not accounted for and are essentially over and above the limits set under the QMS. This puts the sustainability and future of the fishery at risk.