Record sentences in serious fish misreporting case
14 March 2011
The Ministry of Fisheries today witnessed the conclusion in the District Court at Wellington of a lengthy operation involving extensive illegal commercial fishing.
The defendants were New Zealand company Aurora Fisheries, Japanese company Kanai Fishing and four Japanese nationals. In mid 2010 all of the defendants entered guilty pleas on a total of 54 charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 for making false returns.
The defendants engaged in some of the most serious 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”.
The defendants were fined a total of $840,000, a record for this type of offending. Andrew Coleman, Ministry of Fisheries Deputy Chief Executive Field Operations, said “Taskforce Webb” had run for almost two years from November 2008.
“This case illustrates emphatically that we won’t hesitate to act to protect our fisheries from illegal activity,” Mr Coleman said. “Our total focus here was on making sure everyone involved in this deception, including the New Zealand permit holder, was held to account.”
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.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley acknowledged the successful outcome of the case. “The Government simply won’t tolerate illegal fishing in our waters,” Mr Heatley said.
“The compliance process that supports our quota management system is crucial to its success. Illegal fishing has the potential to upset the rigorous procedures we use when setting sustainable catch limits.”
Tomi Maru 87