Hawkes Bay Seafoods and personnel fined more than $1m for commercial fishing offences
A Napier commercial fishing company, its directors and general manager have been fined a total of more than $1 million for the sustained under-reporting of bluenose.
Hawkes Bay Seafoods (HBS) and 2 subsidiary companies in the HBS stable, Esplanade No 3 and Ocean Enterprises Limited plus HBS directors, Antonino (Nino) and Giancarlo (Joe) D'Esposito, and general manager, Marcus D'Esposito were all charged in 2017 with offences under the Fisheries Act.
All parties pleaded guilty last year to under-reporting 27 tonnes of bluenose linked to export consignments to Australia between 2012 and 2014. They were sentenced today in the Wellington District Court.
As well as being fined a total of $1,086,673, the defendants were ordered to pay $418,500 in redemption fees for the return of 4 fishing vessels that the court ordered to be forfeited to the Crown after the offending.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) manager of fisheries compliance Steve Ham says today's result is significant.
"This was sustained offending that happened over a number of years. The judgement today shows very clearly that Marcus D'Esposito knew his actions were against the law.
"Today's outcome sends a clear message to anyone who is thinking of offending similarly – MPI will ensure that people who break the law in this way are dealt with accordingly."
The offending was uncovered when MPI found that the weight of bluenose recorded in the company's documents was different to the actual amount being sent to be sold in Australia. There were 15 separate occasions where exports of under-reported fish were identified for sale.
"Efforts to ensure the sustainability of any fish stock are reliant on accurate and truthful information about the catch. This is critical to maintaining the integrity of the Quota Management System," says Mr Ham.
"Offending of this nature not only affects the sustainability of a fishery but has the potential to significantly impact New Zealand's reputation internationally. It also affects the public perception of the commercial fishing industry.
"In this case, the illegal activity was premeditated and showed a blatant disregard for the QMS [Quota Management System]. The people behind this offending were caught and have paid the price. We make no apologies for that.
"MPI investigators and those who provided legal expertise worked tirelessly to bring this case to court. Their efforts mean that this case has reached an appropriate conclusion."
MPI has, in the past, charged both Nino and Joe D'Esposito and companies associated with them for offences under the Fisheries Act.
This includes in 1991, when Nino and Joe D'Esposito and the companies they were directors of, Harbour Inn Seafood Export Limited and Harbour City Seafoods Limited, were collectively fined close to $1 million for misreporting fish landings that included 574 tonnes of orange roughy.