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Conviction of repeat offenders justifies MPI spending

14 August 2018

LegaSea and the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council welcome the prosecution of Hawke’s Bay Seafood after the longest running district court case on record.

The prosecution was brought against Antonino, Giancarlo and Marcus D’Esposito for falsifying catch records and exporting more fish to Australia than the company had reportedly caught.

The Ministry for Primary Industries need to be congratulated for sending a clear message to the industry, that accurately reporting commercial catch is a legal requirement of the Quota Management System and that the law must be upheld, says spokesman Scott Macindoe.

“Hawke’s Bay Seafood reportedly sent more than 27 tonnes of bluenose to Australia than it recorded in New Zealand. That’s nearly quarter of a million dollars’ worth of fish at a time when the bluenose fishery is under increasing pressure and catches are dwindling.”

The trial lasted seven months and reportedly cost MPI $2.5 million, which is another example of the high cost of enforcing the Quota Management System. Macindoe says the prosecution was worth the time and money spent because the industry has to be held to account.

“We are constantly told that the industry has nothing to hide, that reports of over-fishing, under-reporting, fish dumping and bycatch issues are nothing to worry about, yet here we have one of the country’s more prominent industrial fishing businesses flouting the law and trying to profit from it. It’s unacceptable to us and we’re very pleased to see it is unacceptable to MPI.”

Macindoe says the defence lawyer calls the issue an honest mistake, claiming his clients are “normal business people in a normal business environment". However, the record shows that the D’Esposito family has a long history of criminal activity with regard to fishing.

“In the 1990s they were convicted of colluding with fishermen to falsify catch records for 574 tonnes of orange roughy. They had their fishing boats seized and record fines of almost $1 million were handed down. In 2009 they were again caught misrepresenting the fish they were landing. This is a pattern that has continued for decades and the judge must do what he can to ensure this is the end of the matter.”

Deliberate and systemic offending needs to be dealt with harshly and permanent vessel seizure must be part of the sanctions.

Under reporting, or more generally, misreporting, have proven to be an unsolvable problem in New Zealand’s Quota Management System. MPI has hundreds of reports concerning a few tonnes to thousands of tonnes that have been either misreported or not reported at all.

The Quota Management System relies on self-reporting of catch by commercial fishers. This is the data that drives the management of New Zealand’s commercial fisheries. When that data is corrupted it undercuts the efficacy of the entire system. Past records of systemic misreporting demonstrate that corrupt data has been routinely used by fisheries managers, sometimes knowingly.

The current case is about 27 tonnes of bluenose that has been unreported. Although this may be the longest running and most expensive case brought by MPI it is by no means the largest that has been uncovered.

The case shows just how fiscally impossible it is to enforce compliance with our Quota Management System and the fatal reliance there is on self-reported catch data.

Macindoe says it is time New Zealand paused and examined the existing fisheries management regime that appears to be constantly embroiled in public outrage.

“We must look at what would work better for everyone, now and in the future; not just those currently exercising a right that has low public acceptance. Our grandchildren deserve better than this battle for the last fish.

“This case has ramifications far beyond the non-reporting of 27 tonnes of bluenose”.

ends

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