A Southland fishing company has been fined $18,000 and their boat skipper $6,750 for set netting in marine protected areas, along with removing fins from sharks and discarding the bodies at sea.
In addition to the fines, the fishing vessel Jacob, valued at $221,000, was forfeited to the Crown along with 6 set nets measuring 1000 metres in length.
The estimated value of their sold catch was nearly $50,000.
Following guilty pleas, Jacob Fishing Limited and their fishing vessel skipper Phillip James Turner (46) were sentenced today in the Invercargill District Court on 5 charges filed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
MPI regional fisheries compliance manager, Garreth Jay says the penalties should send a strong message to all commercial fishers – they need to know exactly where they are setting their fishing gear.
"Set netting in marine protected areas, or within the 4 nautical mile marine mammal protection zones is prohibited. Most commercial fishers follow the rules closely.
"Both Jacob Fishing Limited and the vessel skipper Phillip Turner showed a significant degree of carelessness by fishing inside these areas. We take these rules very seriously and when we find evidence of this type of offending, MPI will hold fishers to account," he says.
The fisheries offending occurred through the months of October, November, and December in 2019. It was detected through analysis of electronic reporting, along with the work of fishery officers who boarded the fishing vessel Jacob and reviewed the vessel’s electronic data.
In October, there were instances of set netting at Howells Point, Riverton and Pahia within the prohibited 4 nautical mile zone.
The skipper also set nets in the Fiordland Marine Area such as Taumoana (Five Fingers Peninsula) Marine Reserve and Dusky Sound. At Chalky and Preservation Inlets in Southland Fiordland where the length of commercial set nets is limited to 1000 metres, they set 3000 metres of net around the fiord entrances, during October and November. Then, in December they set nets inside the 4 nautical mile zone off Colac Bay near Riverton.
Despite earlier warnings and advice from MPI, in March 2020 they set nets off Howell’s Point, Riverton – again inside the 4 nautical mile zone.
MPI also received information from the public that in June 2020, Mr Turner’s crew removed the fins of at least 10 school sharks in Dusky Sound and discarded the bodies in the Sound, after pulling in set nets from the outer coast of Fiordland.
"It’s illegal to remove the fins from a shark and discard the body at sea. If MPI becomes aware of this type of behaviour we will investigate and may place the matter before the courts," Garreth Jay says.
You can find more information on protecting dolphins and on areas where set nets are banned on MPI, Protecting Hector's and Māui dolphins.
MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).