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Guilty pleas in commercial fishing cases

Media statement from the Ministry of Fisheries for immediate release

Guilty pleas in commercial fishing cases

The Ministry of Fisheries today reported guilty pleas in two significant Hawke’s Bay commercial fishing cases heard in the District Court at Napier.

The first case involved the offence known as “species misreporting” – the false reporting of one type of fish as another. The defendants were two Napier companies, Ocean Enterprises Ltd and Esplanade No 3 Ltd, a director of those companies, Antonino D’Esposito, and the skipper of the boat involved in the offending, Jason Lee.

The charges arose from a long-term Ministry operation known as Operation Blue. The defendants pleaded guilty to a total of five charges and were convicted and fined a total of $15,500. The boat involved in the offending, Trail B, is subject to forfeiture to the Crown.

The second case, against a total of four defendants and known as Operation John, involved a variety of charges including buying and selling fish illegally and possessing undersize rock lobster for sale. One of the defendants was again Esplanade No 3 Ltd. Another defendant, Peter Terry, the skipper of Nimrod 1, held a customary fishing permit but had not separated his commercial, customary and recreational catches, meaning all the rock lobster were deemed to have been taken illegally. Fines of $8,750 were imposed. There was also forfeiture of the proceeds of sale of the fish and of the boat.

Dean Baigent, Ministry of Fisheries Acting Deputy Chief Executive Field Operations, congratulated his team on bringing these cases to a successful conclusion.

“There are serious environmental consequences of misreporting in fisheries returns and these other offences,” he said. “Species misreporting is difficult to detect so I particularly acknowledge the good work Fishery Officers have done with this operation.

“However, it is very disappointing that we’re having to keep prosecuting this type of offending.”

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