Fisheries abuses condemned

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has praised the fisheries compliance team and other MPI officials behind the prosecution of one of the biggest cases of illegal practices in the commercial industry.

Mr Nash says the hefty fines imposed today in the Hawke’s Bay Seafoods case send a powerful message to any commercial operators who flout the law.

The defendants pleaded guilty to 131 charges related to unreported catches of 27 tonnes of bluenose between 2012 and 2014. The Wellington District Court has imposed fines of almost $1.1 million on the general manager, directors and corporate entities behind the offending. In addition, the company must pay more than $400,000 for the return of its forfeited vessels.

“The actions of those behind the under reporting of this catch deserve condemnation. It amounted to large-scale misreporting of our fishing stocks,” Mr Nash says.

“I have followed this case closely as both MP for Napier and more recently as Fisheries Minister. The offences have rocked the local fishing community and the wider sector. As the judge noted, it undermines the reputation of the industry and the fishery management system, and the efforts of those companies who do follow the law. 

“All of us have a stake in making sure the Quota Management System is respected and followed. Whether you are a commercial operator, involved in recreational fishing, a holder of customary rights, or active in marine protection efforts, the one guiding principle is the need for fisheries to be managed sustainably for future generations.

 “The actions of those in the Hawke’s Bay Seafoods case were an affront to all other groups who are committed to lawful and effective management of our fisheries. We have rules for a reason. This company broke the rules when it gave false information to officials. The fisheries resource belongs to all of us, and we expect better.

 “I want to acknowledge the efforts of fisheries compliance officials at MPI who worked long hours and showed dedication and commitment to bring this case to a conclusion. This case cost the taxpayer more than $2.3 million to investigate and prosecute.

 “Fisheries compliance can be a thankless task but today these staff deserve acknowledgement for a job well done,” Mr Nash said.