A Tauranga based, family owned and operated commercial fishing company was sentenced in Wellington District Court yesterday for making false statements on fishing returns and fishing inside prohibited areas.
Fine O Muir Limited was convicted on seven charges of making false statements on fishing returns, and fined a total of $37,500. The charges related to the company fishing in one management area and misreporting their catch as having been caught in another area.
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) District Compliance Manager for Waikato/Bay of Plenty Brendon Mikkelsen says that this type of behaviour undermines the Quota Management System (QMS), which relies on catch limits set for each management area.
“A total disregard for the Quota Management System places fish stocks at risk of overfishing. The information provided by commercial fishermen on their fishing returns is important information for managing commercial fisheries and making sure they are sustainable,” says Mr Mikkelsen.
Fine O Muir Limited was also convicted on a further 19 charges of fishing inside a prohibited area. The charges related to the company fishing inside prohibited fishing areas near Cape Runaway on 54 occasions over a six month period.
“This type of offending is unacceptable, the prohibited fishing areas are there to protect juvenile fish from bulk fishing methods, and support fishery sustainability. One of the prohibited areas has been in place for over 25 years,” says Mr Mikkelsen.
Fine O Muir Limited is owned and operated by a Tauranga based family and two of the sons Jason Lee McGrath and Brett John McGrath were also sentenced for their parts in the illegal fishing.
Brett McGrath was convicted on one charge of making a false statement on a fishing return and fined $ 7,500, and Jason McGrath was convicted on six charges of making a false statement on fishing returns and fined a total of $30,000.
The commercial fishing trawler Kaiti 4009 owned by Fine O Muir Limited and used in the offending was also ordered forfeit to the crown and Fine O Muir Limited were ordered to pay a redemption fee of $20,000 for its return.
“I hope the fines handed down by the court in this case serve as a deterrent to all, that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated,” says Mr Mikkelsen.
“The Ministry will continue to utilise all compliance resources available to detect and prosecute those commercial operators who defraud the Quota Management System.”
As a result of this prosecution the contract for Fine O Muir Limited to supply fish to a Tauranga based Licensed Fish Receiver has also ceased.
“The Ministry applauds the industry for the stance it has taken against those who operate outside of the Quota Management System. Let this be a lesson to all commercial operators, that the consequences of operating outside the law may be far more extensive than solely fines handed down by the court,” says Mr Mikkelsen.
Fishery Officers ask the public and industry to report any suspicious activity in our fishery by phoning 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are kept confidential if necessary.
For further information about recreational fishing limits visit www.fish.govt.nz
You can also take advantage of the free mobile services. Text ‘app’ to 9889 to download the New Zealand fishing rules smartphone app. Or text the name of the species you are fishing for (e.g. crayfish, paua) to 9889 and you’ll receive the size and limit number by return text. Texts are free.