An Auckland-based commercial fishing company and its Nelson based skipper were sentenced on Friday 7 February in the Wellington District Court for making false statements on fishing returns for the 2009/10 commercial fishing season and bottom trawling in a protected area.
Antons Trawling Company Limited and Kyle Hasson, its then employee (skipper), were both convicted of making false or misleading statements in fishing effort returns contrary to section 230 of the Fisheries Act 1996.
Both defendants were also convicted of either making false or misleading statements in, or material omissions from, landing returns.
Antons Trawling Company Limited was also convicted of the associated offences of making false or misleading statements in their Monthly Harvest Returns in relation to a total of 31 tonnes of Alfonsino and Bluenose.
These convictions arose from two trips during 2010 when Mr Hasson fished a seamount known as the Rumble IV, which is approximately 100 nautical miles north of Cape Runaway and is predominantly inside the Central Fisheries Management Area. The 31 tonnes of fish had been falsely reported as having been taken from the Auckland Fisheries Management Area, when the fish had been taken from the Central Fisheries Management Area.
In addition to these convictions, both parties were sentenced on four charges relating to fishing in a marine conservation area closed to bottom trawling activity.
Fishers entering the Benthic Protection Area (an area closed in 2007 to protect marine biological life susceptible to damage by bottom trawling activities) are required to seek authorisation before conducting any trawling and carry at least two MPI observers.
On 18 January 2010 Mr Hasson entered this area - known as the Tectonic Reach - with a 45 metre stern trawler Seamount Explorer, but failed to advise MPI or carry any observers. Over two days he conducted seven bottom trawls inside the restricted area.
The defendants were sentenced on the basis that they had not deliberately bottom trawled in a protected area or falsified the returns, but they had failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the offending.
Antons Trawling Company Limited was today fined $56,525.00 for their offending, other than a single charge of failing to notify Fisheries Communication Centre before entering the Benthic Protected Area, for which they were convicted and discharged. In addition, the company will have to pay approximately $130,000 in deemed values for the fish that was incorrectly reported in the Auckland Fisheries Management Area. The company’s vessel was forfeit to the Crown with a redemption fee of $50,000 payable to have the vessel returned. Mr Hasson was fined a total of $9,100.00 on all charges.
MPI Investigations Manager, Steve Ham, says that this type of behaviour undermines the Quota Management System (QMS), which relies on accurate and consistent reporting of the areas where fish are caught.
“The information provided by commercial fishermen on their fishing returns is important for managing commercial fisheries and making sure they are sustainable. It also can provide anyone misreporting, regardless of whether or not the offending is deliberate, with an advantage over other fishers who may be reporting correctly” says Mr Ham.
“While the bottom trawling in the Benthic Protection Area by Mr Hasson in this case was not deliberate, the environmental value of these areas has been recognised and protected. It is important that the companies sending skippers to sea give them adequate training and resources so that mistakes such as this do not happen.
Mr Ham encourages fishing industry operators and non-commercial fishers to report any suspected illegal activity through the Ministry’s 0800 4 Poacher number (0800 4 76224).
“All calls are treated in confidence, and the information we receive helps stamp out any illegal fishing and helps ensure we have a sustainable fishery for future generations.”
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