Charges proved against Korean trawler captain

04:05, Jan 16 2014
Oyang 77
OYANG 77: A Korean-owned fishing boat at the centre of illegal fish dumping claims.

Charges of discarding fish at sea and misreporting the catch have been proven against the captain of Korean fishing vessel Oyang 77.

The vessel, which did 11 trips in New Zealand waters, remained tied up at Lyttelton and Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan was able to visit it during a 14-day hearing last year.

His reserved decision at the end of the judge-alone trial has just been released.

Captain Dae Jun Lee, 30, pleaded guilty to charges of omitting to report that a basking shark had been caught in the net and returned to sea.

He also pleaded guilty to failing to include details in the catch documentation about fish catch lost at sea when a net broke and sank.

Judge Callaghan found charges proved against Lee of discarding squid, hoki, and barracouta at sea and then filing false or misleading catch returns, but dismissed similar charges relating to another trip.

The case has been adjourned to a sentencing date to be set by the court registrar.

The ship is owned by the Sajo Oyang Corporation, while Southern Storm Fishing 2007 Ltd was the fishing quota permit holder and chartered the vessel.

A dispute over pay arose when the vessel docked at Lyttelton in March 2012, but Judge Callaghan rejected the suggestion crew members had embellished or made up evidence to put pressure on Sajo to resolve their pay claims.

Judge Callaghan found there was evidence that Lee had played an active role in ordering, directing, or overseeing some discarding of fish at sea.

However, there was also evidence which strongly suggested other Korean officers gave similar orders, and that crew members may have discarded fish on their own volition.

Lee had made it clear that fish should not be discarded while a fishery observer was on board.

The factory manager, 42-year-old Soon Ill Hwang, was present and may have authorised the discarding on these occasions, but Interpol has since verified that Hwang has been killed in a motor accident in China.

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