Fishing boat skipper fined for illegal dumping of fish
29 April 2005
A Christchurch-based fisherman who had earlier entered a guilty plea to misreporting his catch was fined $10,000 and his commercial fishing vessel ordered forfeit with a $10,000 redemption fee to be paid when he appeared for sentence at Christchurch District Court yesterday (28 April).
Dale Robert Robertson (40) had been charged with making a false statement in a fishing return by misreporting the amount of barracouta, gurnard and spiny dogfish taken. The misreporting occurred because he elected to throw the fish back to the sea instead of landing and reporting it.
At the time of the offending Robertson was the skipper of the FV "Austro Carina", a Lyttelton-based trawler.
The investigation started after recreational fishers had observed a fishing vessel working near the coast, south of Kaikoura. They saw the boat pull up a net containing barracouta, gurnard and spiny dogfish, which was then thrown back into the sea. The fishers spoke to a crew member on the vessel who told them that the large number of spiny dogfish in the net had wrecked the trawl.
The incident along with vessel identification was reported to the Ministry of Fisheries and an investigation was started. Enquiries were made with the vessel owners and the skipper and based on findings and the fact that the observed catch was never reported a decision was made to charge the skipper, Robertson.
The exact amount of "dumped" fish could not be quantified but it was considered to be about eight tonnes in total, six tonnes of which was estimated to be dogfish. It is illegal to dump both barracouta and gurnard, however dogfish can be returned to the sea if it is reported correctly.
Christchurch District Compliance Manager John Slaughter said that "dumping" of fish species is a serious offence against the Fisheries Act and one that can be difficult to detect. He praised the actions of the recreational fishers in this case and stated that without their motivation to get involved, this matter would not have been detected.
Mr Slaughter said that the quota management system relied on the integrity of all commercial fishermen, and that when people operate outside the law it impacts on both the fishery and the reputation of those involved.
While the actions of the members of public were pleasing in this case, Mr Slaughter said he was disappointed in the actions of the defendant and his crew.
"I hope this prosecution sends a message to the commercial industry that similar offending when detected will have similar consequences."