A commercial fisher who failed to report about 2.5 tonnes of mostly snapper, along with some kahawai and gurnard has been fined $26,500.
Hamish Robert Apatu (54) was sentenced (17 April 2023) in the Kaitaia District Court on 3 charges under the Fisheries Act, based around his commercial fishing reports and the financial benefit gained by not filing them accurately.
Fisheries New Zealand inquiries found discrepancies in the numbers and weights of fish Mr Apatu’s company, Apatu Enterprises Limited, landed between 30 December 2020 and 30 March 2022 at his company’s Licensed Fish Receiver in Cable Bay.
"Around 249 bins of snapper, 62 bins of kahawai, and 5 bins of gurnard were omitted from the official records. That’s around 2.5 tonnes of snapper and some kahawai and gurnard. It would have cost around $18,000 to gain quota in the form of Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) to land these fish. By not having ACE, the fish taken was unaccounted for and the only motivation for doing this would be to maximise profits.
Mr Apatu’s fishing vessel, Valiant, was forfeited and he was ordered to pay $12,000 to have it released. He must also pay a deemed value penalty of $21,255 for the unreported fish. This is in addition to the court-imposed fine of $26,500.
"When we find evidence of fishing rules being deliberately broken for financial gain, we will investigate and if appropriate place the matter before the court. The rules are there for a reason – to ensure sustainability of fishing resources into the future," says Fisheries New Zealand regional manager fisheries compliance, Phil Tasker.
Mr Apatu’s fishing operation from his vessel, Valiant, would target snapper in Doubtless Bay and generally did single day fishing trips.
"Two-and-a-half tonnes of snapper is a lot of fish. The resource is there for everyone and Mr Apatu was taking far more than his share," he says.
Fisheries New Zealand encourages fishing industry operators and non-commercial fishers to report any suspected illegal activity through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ 0800 4 POACHER line (0800 47 62 24).