Chinese authorities have deregistered and fined a Chinese commercial fishing company approximately NZD$825,000 for misreporting bluefin tuna catches and fishing without a licence adjacent to the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Offending by the vessels, the Da Yang 15 and Da Yang 16, was detected during Operation Zodiac, a joint Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand Defence Force high seas patrol in July last year.
They were fishing in an area between NZ and Fiji when the navy’s offshore patrol vessel, the HMNZS Otago, found them to be in contravention of international law.
Under international law, the state to which vessels are flagged is ultimately responsible for taking action against any of its vessels that violate laws.
Chinese authorities have now concluded their investigation and found that the two vessels were not only unlicensed but that they mis-reported over 100 tonnes of high value southern bluefin tuna as another lower value species.
This was the first time that genetic samples of fish had been taken during an ‘at sea’ inspection, with subsequent MPI genetic analysis revealing beyond doubt, that the fish were southern bluefin tuna and not bigeye tuna, as reported by the captain of the Da Yang 16.
MPI spokesman, Gary Orr, says that as well as the company being fined and deregistered, the company’s vessels have been permanently banned from all deep-sea fishing activities.
"The outcome illustrates a serious response by the Chinese Government to fisheries non-compliance.
"The laws that were broken are developed and implemented by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and designed to sustainably manage the Pacific tuna stocks in the high seas adjacent to the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
"The value of undertaking monitoring, control and surveillance activities on the high seas cannot be underestimated. We have thanked the Chinese authorities for their comprehensive and thorough investigation.
"Unlicensed fishing undermines the principles of sustainable fisheries management.
"Ensuring high levels of compliance within the adjacent high seas tuna fishery is one of the key objectives of New Zealand’s maritime patrolling programme - an activity that New Zealand invests in because the programme ultimately supports sustainable fisheries management.
"New Zealand is committed to working with China to protect sustainable fish stocks in the Pacific region. In March this year, we signed a Communique aimed at promoting sustainable fishing and combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
"New Zealand will continue to work with China and others to combat IUU in other regions."