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Fisheries Ministry seizes Japanese hoki vessel

Ministry of Fisheries, Christchurch, seizes Japanese hoki vessel

The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish), Christchurch, today seized a large Japanese trawler in Lyttleton, in the culmination of a five month investigation into one particular aspect of vessel's fishing practice.

MFish District Compliance Manager, Christchurch, John Slaughter, said his investigators suspected the vessel had under-declared a significant quantity of hoki in the period leading up to the investigation.

The investigation commenced in mid-June when processed fish landed from the ship was inspected at Lyttelton, and discrepancies were found between the actual and reported state. As a result, 3140 cartons of hoki were seized, and analysis started.

Mr Slaughter said the discrepancy could be as high as a 20 per cent difference, with as much as 38 tonnes of hoki not declared.

"The Ministry is serious about maintaining the integrity of the Quota Management System through effective enforcement, especially in New Zealand's deepwater fisheries," he said. "We acknowledge that the hoki fishery is under pressure. Hoki quota has been progressively reduced during the past few years, and has been cut by a further 10 per cent for the 2003/04 fishing year."

The hoki fishery is one of the largest in New Zealand, and the 2003/04 Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is set at 180,000 tonnes.

The vessel, the Chiyo Maru #3, is owned and operated by the Maruha Fishing Co Ltd of Japan, and is one of the largest vessels of its type fishing in New Zealand waters.

Mr Slaughter said if the company was charged and convicted, those involved may face fines of up to $250,000 for each charge, and possible automatic forfeiture of the vessel and fish involved.

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