New Zealand fishing company Sanford has been fined US$ 1.9 million (NZ$2.27m) for dumping oil waste at sea then attempting to cover up its actions.
US District Judge Beryl Howell this morning in a hearing in Washington DC also put the company on a three year probation from fishing in US waters.
Last year, listed company Sanford was found guilty in the United States District Court of seven charges relating to the running of its tuna boat, San Nikunau.
The charges followed an inspection of San Nikunau in Pago Pago, American Samoa, in July 2011. US Coast Guard inspectors witnessed crew clearing a bilge by pumping directly overboard without using the oil water separator
At the sentencing hearing Sanford told Judge Beryl Howell the company should be fined no more than US$450,000.
In its submission to the judge, Sanford, whose directors include National Party president Peter Goodfellow, said the court should recognise the company "has been a corporate leader in New Zealand in the development and implementation of sustainability practices".
But the US Government said Sanford had caused harm to the marine environment in American Samoa. It called for the near-maximum fine of US$3 million, "because it is reasonable that the fine disgorge some amount of profit from defendant Sanford Ltd".
The company now has ten days to appeal the sentence.
"I think our early indications are that is unlikely that we will appeal. We have to accept the decision and move on," said Sanford's Managing Director, Eric Barratt, from the US this morning.
The decision should have little impact on the value of the company, Barratt said, in a message to shareholders.
"We have provided for what we expect the outcome to be in the case, there should be minimal financial impact on our accounts," he said.
The company is now taking measures to improve the accountability and responsibility of the its Pacific tuna fleet.
"The court case highlighted to us the need to have very strong systems to ensure that the crews on the vessel carry out the legal requirements effectively and properly."
The court ordered that a further Community Service Payment of US$500,000 be paid to the US National Fisheries Foundation.
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