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MPI swoop on suspected fraudulent fishing activity

MPI swoop on suspected fraudulent commercial fishing activity

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) compliance officers swooped on a Hawkes Bay fishing enterprise today to secure evidence in an investigation into suspected fraudulent activity in the inshore commercial fishing sector.

The MPI led investigation is a cross-government investigation involving MPI, Customs, Police, Immigration and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Ministry for Primary Industries Director of Compliance Dean Baigent says this is the largest “inshore fisheries” investigation of its type for many years.

“This morning 88 MPI Compliance officers and investigators and New Zealand Police visited sites in the greater Hawkes Bay area, Wellington, Tauranga, Gisborne, Chatham Islands and Christchurch.

“The investigation involves activity throughout the commercial supply chain – catching, landing, processing and exporting.”

A Hawkes Bay family based fishing entity involved in all facets of catching; processing and sale of fish from nine vessels has been identified as potentially being involved.

Enquiries indicate large discrepancies between the company’s catch records and export documents, where more fish is being exported than is being reported as caught.

Export documents show the company has exported substantial quantities of fresh chilled product over an 18 month period, while catch records show the company has landed considerably less.

The misreported figure is expected to grow with the inclusion of domestic sales that have occurred over the period in question.

“This looks like an example of a company side-stepping the regulations that ensure the sustainability of our fisheries in a very deliberate and calculated manner. This type of behaviour undermines the Quota Management System, puts the fishery at risk and makes it more difficult for legitimate fishers to get their legitimate catch.”

Mr Baigent says investigators have a lot of new evidence to go through before other species can be excluded as being misreported.

ends

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