Heavy sentencing sends clear message to commercial fishers
17 March 2009
Last week’s heavy sentencing of three Polish crewmen on board the vessel, FV Atria, sends a clear message to the fishing industry that the Ministry of Fisheries monitors the activities on vessels closely and offenders will be prosecuted seriously.
The trio were sentenced in the Christchurch District Court last Thursday and ordered to pay fines totalling 147,500 within 28 days. Their vessel (which is currently outside New Zealand waters) was also been forfeit to the Crown following the six-week trial.
The three men had been prosecuted for fish dumping, a process that increases the value of catch by discarding less valuable or damaged fish, the effects of which can lead to exceeding the allowable quota.
The master of the vessel, Josef Eugeniusz Popowicz, admitted not recording fish return information, and two charges of dumping fish at sea. He was fined $67,500.
The ship’s factory manager, Wlodzimierz Pierzchlinski, pleaded guilty to two fish dumping charges and was fined $60,000.
Foreman, Janusz Miroslaw Josefiak was fined $20,000 on one fish dumping charge.
It’s understood the men left New Zealand for Poland last Wednesday before sentencing took place.
“The result is especially pleasing as it shows that the court recognises the seriousness of the offending and the dishonest and negligent part played by parties in this offending,” said MFish Investigations Manager in Christchurch, John Slaughter.
“I am hopeful this will send out a strong message to the industry that we will deal with reported offending in a detailed and committed manner to get the best results we can.
“In order for our fisheries to be sustainable in the future, dumping and mis-reporting of fish, together with wasteful fishing practices, will not be tolerated,” he said.
The case started in 2007, when nine Polish fishermen approached MFish to complain about the dumping and poor fishing practices aboard the FV Atria. This was supported with cell phone video footage.
The investigation relied heavily on the witnesses who all supported the prosecution throughout, coming back to New Zealand for six-week’s before the defended hearing started.
“I am also pleased for the sake of the Polish fishing crew who approached us in the first instance and gave evidence. The judge fully endorsed their credibility and this outcome vindicates their position over a difficult and trying time,” said John.