Black-market fish retailer fined $28,000 on paua and rock lobster charges
28 April 2005
A Christchurch businessman was convicted and fined a total of $28,000 in the Christchurch District Court yesterday (27 April), after he admitted selling black-market paua and rock lobster.
Peter Raymond Baird who set up fish retail businesses, World First Solutions and Karatau Export Trading Company, was sentenced on two charges of possessing paua and rock lobster for sale between December 2002 and June 2003. During this time Baird sourced 753 kg of paua and 391 kg of rock lobster outside the Quota Management System. This fish was then sold to a number of restaurants in Christchurch, Queenstown and Auckland. The minimum value of these sales was estimated at $48,000 but the defendant stated that profits had been minimal.
The Ministry of Fisheries investigation centred on reconstructing invoices, which were supplied to the restaurants at the time of sale, and comparing these with legitimate sources of fish. This proved to be a time-consuming exercise but when completed revealed the full extent of offending.
Christchurch District Compliance Manager John Slaughter said the investigation required a high level of commitment in analysing the full extent of the offending and it was pleasing to see the court realise the seriousness involved.
"Paua and rock lobster are commonly sold on the black-market, because of their high value and relative accessibility. The nature of Baird's offending indicated the ease with which people could enter the illegal fish trade, but it also showed the high risk of detection where legislative requirements are ignored," said Mr Slaughter.
"Paua and rock lobster are widely abused black-market species and if we are serious about the long-term sustainability of our fisheries it is important that people play by the rules. The amounts of fish involved in these sales were significant for the domestic market and staff involved in the investigation did a very good job in reconciling all the received fish and subsequent sales."
Mr Slaughter said that he was pleased with the result in court on Wednesday. The court had recognised the seriousness of the offending in imposing a high fine and effective deterrents are important to reinforce the seriousness nature of breaking fisheries law.