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MP Hopes Fisheries Min. Has Homework Done On Bust

Heatley: "I hope the ministry have done their homework" over $3,200,000 alleged fish theft
By Liam Butler

MP Hopes Fisheries Min. Has Homework Done On Bust

Phil Heatley,MP for Whangarei and National Spokesperson for Fisheries today has said that he, "hopes the Ministry of Fisheries have done their homework. They just have to be totally diligent over this alleged incident since, of all the offences that undermine the management of NZ's fishery, misreporting is the worst".

The Ministry of Fisheries alleges five commercial fishing companies have misreported their catch.

The allegation stems from a Ministry of Fisheries Tauranga-based operation named "PURSE" which is currently underway.

A total of 27 Fishery Officers are involved in the execution of the operation at five fishing industry companies, three in Tauranga, one in Wellington and one in Nelson. During the investigation commercial premises were examined.

Two of these Tauranga based companies each own and operate a registered commercial "purse seine" (bulk fishing method) vessel. Both vessels have been seized. They have a combined estimated valuation of $3,200,000.

One of these vessels has been estimated to have taken in excess of 948,000 kilograms of fish unlawfully, in that it is alleged the vessel was operating without a fishing permit and certificate of registration. Both a valid fishing permit and certificate of registration are the primary authorisations that allow a commercial fisherman to take fish for the purpose of sale.

A majority of this fish is alleged to have been landed to a Tauranga-based licensed fish receiver.

It is alleged that through the utilisation of five fishing permits between the two vessels involved, large quantities of fish have been misreported, on top of the fish alleged to have been taken without authority. In some cases, fishing returns have also been provided late. Sealord Group is assisting the Ministry of Fisheries in inquiries into alleged illegal fishing by a company in Tauranga, Chief Executive Doug McKay said today.

Mr McKay said Nelson-based Sealord did not operate purse seine vessels and none of it's fleet, contractors or charter vessels were under investigation for illegal fishing or misreporting of catch.

"We are assisting the Ministry with inquiries into a third party that fished against a Sealord permit last year and allegedly provided us with inaccurate catch reports, which were filed under our name as permit holders. " Mr McKay said Sealord would not make any further comment until the investigation is concluded.


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