A commercial fisher who deliberately disarmed and removed a Geospatial Position Reporting (GPR) device from his fishing vessel, has been fined $20,000.
Tony Peter Phillipson (49) was sentenced today – Wednesday, 6 December in the Nelson District Court after earlier pleading guilty to 3 charges under the Fisheries Act and Fisheries (Geospatial Position Reporting) Regulations 2017, following a successful prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
"All commercial fishing vessels are required to have GPR technology installed and operating on their vessels. Digital monitoring supports sustainable fisheries by tracking, reporting, and monitoring all commercial fishing activity. Mr Phillipson knew that it was illegal to remove his GPR device, however, he deliberately went out of his way to do this in order to circumvent the law," says fisheries New Zealand acting regional fisheries compliance manager, Anthony Little.
In April this year, Mr Phillipson left Port Tarakohe in Golden Bay aboard the vessel Jeanette with one crew member, sailing towards Cook Strait for a commercial fishing trip. When he reached the Waitui Bay area, he removed the GPR equipment, placed it in waterproof bags, attaching them to fishing buoys, tied to a rope and anchor. There is no record of where he went to from that point. He returned 3 days later but could not find the GPR device and claimed it had been stolen.
Mr Phillipson sailed to Port Nelson on 1 May after catching 5,948kgs of fish, valued at $11,875,00. The GPR device – a Solar VMS - was found by a member of the public and handed in to MPI, along with the anchor, rope, and buoys.
"When spoken to by a fishery officer, Mr Phillipson admitted removing the GPR device. This is the first time we've encountered this type of offending – someone disabling GPR equipment and there are consequences. The rules are there for a reason – to protect our shared fisheries and ensure sustainability into the future. Mr Phillipson's actions undermined a system based on trust," says Anthony Little.
The Jeanette, the Solar VMS, anchor, rope, and fishing buoys were forfeited to the Crown.
MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24)
For further information and general enquiries, call MPI on 0800 00 83 33 or email email@example.com
For media enquiries, contact the media team on 029 894 0328.