Fishing web of deceit unravelled
28 July 2010
The Ministry of Fisheries today witnessed the first key step towards the successful conclusion of a lengthy operation involving extensive illegal commercial fishing.
The defendants are New Zealand company, Aurora Fisheries, Japanese company, Kanai Fishing, as well as four Japanese nationals. All of the defendants entered guilty pleas at the District Court at Wellington on a total of 54 charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 for making false returns.
The defendants engaged in one of the most significant levels of misreporting that New Zealand’s quota management regime has seen, catching fish in one quota management area and misreporting it as coming from another. This practice is known as “trucking”.
Andrew Coleman, Ministry of Fisheries Deputy Chief Executive Field Operations, said the outcome of “Taskforce Webb” was deeply satisfying for everyone concerned. “The operation ran for almost two years from November 2008 and was a huge team effort by a wide range of people,” Mr Coleman said.
“While the compliance model we’re promoting emphasises informing and assisting those engaged in fishing activity, including commercial fishers, we won’t hesitate to act to protect our fisheries from illegal activity.”
The offending involved 481 tonnes of ling and 112 tonnes of silver warehou caught off the southern coast of the South Island by the foreign-flagged, New Zealand-registered ship Tomi Maru 87 during the period 2007 - 2008. The fish had an estimated export value of $2.4 million.
It was also acknowledged by the defendants that similar misreporting had occurred during fishing trips dating back to 2001.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley applauded the result and the Ministry of Fisheries’ work in delivering it.
The Government will not tolerate illegal fishing in our waters, said Mr Heatley.
“The compliance process that supports our quota management system is critical to its success. Illegal fishing has the potential to upset the rigorous processes we use when setting sustainable catch limits.”
Sentencing of the defendants is expected within the next couple of months.