Japanese Fishing Master And Project Manager Sentenced On 'Trucking' Charges.
17 January 2005
The fishing master of the Japanese surimi vessel Koyo Maru No 8 and the Surimi Project Manager of a Japanese fishing company with global links were today ordered to pay fines totalling $224,000.
The sentence imposed at the Dunedin District Court followed an earlier hearing in December 2004 where convictions were entered against the two on eight Fisheries Act 1996 offences.
Both individuals pleaded guilty to four charges each of making a false statement in a fishing return. The charges involved serious offences affecting the quota management framework and the sustainability of fisheries resources. The maximum potential fine for each charge was $250,000.
The charges involved a practice known in the fishing industry as "trucking" which is the false reporting of fish between two or more fisheries management areas. In this case southern blue whiting taken from the Campbell Island Rise area was misreported as having been taken from either the Auckland Island Rise or Pukaki Rise areas during fishing trips in August and September 2002. Subsequent investigations revealed that the total quantity of fish misreported during these two fishing trips was just under 700 tonnes.
The motive for the offending was that, in order to make the New Zealand Surimi Project profitable, the Project Manager had directed the master of the vessel to misreport where the fish was taken so as to:
* Utilise available annual catch entitlement to take fish in less productive areas of the sub-Antarctic southern blue whiting fishery and:
* Avoid paying deemed values, which would be incurred by continuing to take fish from the Campbell Island Rise area.
On conviction, the vessel, with an estimated value of $11.6 million was also forfeit to the Crown. In addition to the fines and forfeiture, amended fishing returns have been completed to accurately reflect the quantities and locations of the amount of southern blue whiting extracted from the sub-Antarctic fishery during these trips.
The deemed value sum (which would have been payable had everything been correctly reported) $208,792.80, has subsequently been paid to the Ministry of Fisheries.
In sentencing, His Honour Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said:
" I take into account s254 of the Fisheries Act 1996. I must have regard to both the difficulties inherent in detecting fisheries offences and the need to maintain adequate deterrents against the commission of such offences. If a strongly deterrent sentence is not imposed then it cannot be said that a deterrent penalty is being imposed to deter the current defendants from re-offending or to deter others from committing similar offences."
The head of the Ministry of Fisheries Serious Offences Unit, Mike Green said he was pleased with the result. The potential for large financial benefits from manipulating catching rights may create an incentive to offend but this result sent a clear signal to those considering this practice that they will be caught and will face severe consequences. Mr Green said the vessel, which was owned by the Japanese company Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd (Nissui), was fishing under charter and utilised the fishing permit issued to Sealord Charters Ltd.
This sentencing brings to a close an investigation, which Ministry of Fisheries investigators started back in March 2003. The investigation was initiated by specific and detailed information from the Ministry's scientific sources.