Fishing firms lied about catches
South Korean fishing boats chasing toothfish in the Southern Ocean have been ordered out after New Zealand scientists discovered they were deliberately misreporting their catches.
But the organisation monitoring the region, the Tasmanian based Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) refused to reveal details of the breaches.
Toothfish is one of the world's most lucrative catches but CCAMLR has tight controls on its exploitation amidst fears of environmental damage.
In New Zealand, Parliament's primary production committee has reported back its briefing on the Ross Sea Fishery and said there had been an increasing number of known illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) boats operating near the Ross Sea.
The committee noted that there were calls to declare the area a marine sanctuary but warned if that happened, New Zealand boats would have to withdraw, letting in more IUU vessels.
The committee said there are concerns that certain licensed vessels might have links to unlicensed vessels and may attempt to falsify their catches.
"The efforts of New Zealand scientists to detect and expose catch misreporting by CCAMLR-licensed vessels operating in east Antarctica [west of the Ross Sea] were successful [in 2013], in forcing the Korean Government to withdraw the offending vessels and undertake a full investigation," the committee reported.
No other details are given.
A spokesman for CCAMLR told Fairfax Media the matter came up in Hobart in December and Korea "undertook to further investigate the matter" and report back to the next meeting later this year.
Documents, he said, were "not public domain".
But based on previous cases, the Koreans have little to fear.
In 2012 the Korean ship Insung No 7 illegally took $600,000 worth of toothfish from the Southern Ocean and was fined only $1800 by its government.
CCAMLR had complained it took 339 per cent over-catch.
At the time New Zealand also complained.
"Members noted that this was one of many incidences of non- compliance by Korean-flagged vessels, in addition to the loss of life caused by the sinking of the Insung No 1, and suggested Korea consider reviewing its domestic arrangements to provide for the imposition of more appropriate sanctions on those responsible for vessels flying the Korean flag," the commission decided in 2012.
The parliamentary report released last week said New Zealand contributed practical support to efforts to combat IUU fishing.
It said New Zealand must engage with the fishing nations through CCAMLR.
It said that if New Zealand pulled out it would engage other nations, not interested in science, to go into the Southern Ocean.
"With this in mind, we were informed that New Zealand should not heed voices advocating withdrawal from the area," the committee said.
They also attacked groups campaigning for a marine sanctuary saying that "in order to gain publicity and legitimacy, these groups use emotional language and bad science to misrepresent the status of the stock and make unsupported allegations".