The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating a potential fish-dumping incident off the coast of Northland on Friday (31 July).
MPI Compliance Director Dean Baigent says two separate fishermen alerted staff in Auckland and Northland offices that they had found “a slick of snapper” floating on the surface of the water near the Hen and Chicken Islands on Friday morning.
Both gave an accurate location and description allowing MPI to respond immediately.
“These guys did everything right. Getting accurate information about something happening on the water meant we could respond immediately.
“We chartered a plane from Ardmore and got out to the scene and recorded six commercial boats in the area and recorded their positions.”
At the same time staff left Gulf Harbour in a fisheries patrol boat and boarded and inspected one of the commercial boats that had been identified. Information on the boat’s GPS plotter suggests it may not have been involved in the dumping.
Mr Baigent says the aircraft did not find the slick of fish, but one of the fishermen photographed the slick and retrieved some of the fish from the sea and gave them to MPI for analysis.
“These specimens will tell their own story. They will be analysed for net marks and any other potential causes of death. It’s important to rule out any natural causes such as disease.”
“This week we will be interviewing the crews of the other five commercial boats that we saw in the area as part of our investigation.”
Mr Baigent says dumping fish for any reason is not tolerated.
“Commercial fishermen must report all fish they catch so they can be recorded and fish stocks can be managed sustainably.
“If our investigation provides evidence an offence has been committed, those responsible will be held to account.”
MPI encourages people to report any suspicious fishing activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are confidential.