Four South Korean officers of the Oyang 75 fishing vessel have been fined more than $420,000 for trawling activities described in court as "arrogant" and "incompetent".
The officers had ruled the unhappy vessel "with an iron fist", Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders said as he convicted the men.
The Indonesian crew members walked off the vessel at Lyttelton and gave evidence of the ship's shoddy and dishonest fishing practices.
As well as the $424,500 in fines, fisheries now has a forfeiture order against the Seijo Oyang Corporation's 68-metre stern trawler worth up to US$8 million. The vessel had been chartered by Southern Storm Fishing (2007) Ltd.
The vessel is overseas but fisheries is holding a bond against it, and the owners will have to seek relief from forfeiture to recover the vessel or some of the money. Another court hearing will consider that.
Fisheries prosecutor Grant Fletcher said the Oyang's activities in dumping lower-value catch to replace it with fish that was worth more was "arrogant", and Judge Saunders pointed to evidence of incompetence. At one stage the master did not know where he was on the ocean.
The prosecution related to two of the Oyang's trawling voyages off the east coast of the South Island last year.
None of the officers came to New Zealand for the hearing and they were not there for today's sentencing.
One of them, factory manager Tae Won Jo, has asked for special reasons to be considered before the sentencing. Judge Saunders adjourned his sentencing until November 8 and gave him 10 days to provide submissions.
Charges against the other four officers include dumping fish at sea on both voyages, filing false catch returns, and other charges that arose from what the judge called "sloppy paperwork". That included misidentifying some catch as grey mullet when those fish can be caught only along the coast or in harbours, and not at sea.
The master of the vessel, Chong Pil Yun, was fined $2500 for obstructing a fisheries observer on board by preventing her calling her office in Wellington to discuss the dumping she had seen.
Fletcher said the penalties needed to be high enough to make offending "patently uneconomic" and make it not worth taking any commercial risks.
The master faced 10 charges, which brought fines totalling $208,500.
Minsu Park, the chief officer, was fined a total of $121,000 on four charges.
Deck bosun Wongeu Kang was fined $60,000.
The radio operator, Juncheol Lee, who had been seen to be involved in the fish dumping and preparing incorrect catch returns, was fined $35,000.
Judge Saunders said he hoped the penalties were sufficient to make the fishing community realise that significant penalties would be imposed on those who abused the quota management system "in a high-handed way".
He said this was the largest case of fish dumping prosecuted in New Zealand with his finding at the hearing that 355 tonnes of fish had been discarded.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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