Fish ‘trucking’ results in vessel forfeiture
17 October 2008
Employees of two Korean foreign-flagged, fishing vessels have been fined a total of $360,000 and an order was made to forfeit their vessels to the Crown, after being caught ‘trucking’ more than 700 tonnes of Ling in New Zealand waters.
Captain, Dae Geun Kim, of the Melilla 201 and Captain, Se Hun Pyon, of the Melilla 203, along with shore-based manager, Gap Joo Bae, were sentenced in the Lower Hutt District Court on Tuesday, after earlier pleading guilty to charges against the Fishery Act 1996 and the Fisheries (Reporting) Regulation 2001.
The charges relate to the trio providing false and misleading information in the fishing returns of eight trips investigated by the Ministry of Fisheries from January to December 2007.
Officer in charge of the case, MFish Investigations Manager, Mike Green, says the two vessels embarked on activity known in the fishing industry as ‘trucking’.
Trucking is the transportation of fish between fisheries management areas (FMA) for the purpose of area misreporting. This means that fish taken in one area is reported and counted against annual catch entitlement (ACE) by the permit holder in another area.
The case involved the catching and trucking of Ling from FMA5 into FMA6 (in the Southern Ocean) and reporting the Ling as if it had been caught FMA6.
“The motive uncovered in this case was driven by the fact that Ling ACE in FMA5 was expensive and difficult to obtain compared to ACE in FMA6 which was cheaper and easily obtained,” says Mr Green.
“The investigation team also uncovered a second set of records on one of the vessels which assisted the team in determining the extent of the offending.
“However, it was found that the second vessel had been instructed by its employees to destroy all records which may show the timing of the true catch,” he says.
Mr Green, said the offending was deliberate, serious and difficult to detect.
“This type of offending hits at the heart and questions the integrity of the Quota Management System as it undermines the ability of the Ministry to determine what fish is being extracted from the sea, and whether those fish stocks are sustainable in the future”.
“Any fisher or fishing company that embarks on this type of offending is doing so for pure greed, and the Ministry’s compliance teams have built up extensive experience to combat this type of calculated offending,” says Mr Green.
The Melilla 201 and Melilla 203 were registered as New Zealand fishing vessels, and operated by Trans Pacific Fishing Limited under a Charter Agreement with the vessel’s owner, Dae Hyun Agriculture and Fisheries Limited, a registered company situated in Seoul, Korea. Both of these companies are in liquidation.
The vessels are now owned by a new Korean owner who was not involved in the offending and has entered into a new charter arrangement with another New Zealand fishing company for one of the vessels.
The convictions entered last Tuesday only related to six of the eight offending trips, and the last two trips will be heard later at a separate hearing in the Wellington District Court. The last two trips also involve charges against the chief officers of the vessels for which guilty pleas have already been entered.