A Southland-based commercial fishing company and its director were sentenced today in the Invercargill District Court for making false statements on fishing returns for the 2010/11 commercial fishing season.
Karaka Fisheries Limited and its director Martin William Nepia were both charged with six jointly laid charges of making a false statement in a return (being Monthly Harvest Returns and Amendment returns), contrary to section 230 of the Fisheries Act 1996. In addition, Karaka Fisheries Limited was sentenced on ten charges of filing late returns contrary to regulation 42(c) of the Fisheries (Reporting) Regulations 2001.
Mr Nepia was fined $18,000 plus court costs as well as being sentenced to five months community detention and 250 hours of community work. Karaka Fisheries Limited was fined $12,000 for the s230 offences and an additional $5,000 for the later reporting charges plus court costs.
In November 2010 Karaka Fisheries Ltd obtained five copies of their commercial fishing permit.
The company used three North Island-based fishing vessels to catch fish against their permit during the months of November 2010 to February 2011, using copies of their fishing permit. The permit was subsequently suspended on 21 April 2011.
During this time the fishing returns provided by Mr Nepia and Karaka Fisheries Limited stated that no fish had been caught, whereas the amount calculated by MPI to have been caught was estimated at nearly 64 tonnes, with a total ‘deemed value’ exceeding $820,000.
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) District Compliance Manager for Southland, Reece Murphy says that this type of behaviour undermines the Quota Management System (QMS), which relies on catch limits set for each management area.
“This total disregard for the Quota Management System places our fishing industry at risk. The information provided by commercial fishermen on their fishing returns is important for managing commercial fisheries and making sure they are sustainable,” says Mr Murphy.
“We are pleased with today’s result and it is good to see the courts sending out a message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. The Ministry will continue to utilise all compliance resources available to detect and prosecute those commercial operators who defraud the Quota Management System.”