Loss of contract and $37k fine for fishing firm

A Tauranga-based commercial fishing company has been sentenced for making false statements on fishing returns and fishing inside prohibited areas.

Fine O Muir Limited was convicted on seven charges of making false statements on fishing returns, and fined a total of $37,500, in Wellington District Court on Monday.

The charges related to the company fishing in one management area and misreporting its catch as having been caught in another area.

Fine O Muir was also convicted on a further 19 charges of fishing inside a prohibited area. The charges related to the company fishing inside prohibited fishing areas near Cape Runaway on 54 occasions over a six-month period.

Ministry for Primary Industries district compliance manager for Waikato/Bay of Plenty Brendon Mikkelsen said the behaviour undermined and showed "total disregard" for Quota Management System.

"The information provided by commercial fishermen on their fishing returns is important information for managing commercial fisheries and making sure they are sustainable," Mr Mikkelsen said.

"This type of offending is unacceptable, the prohibited fishing areas are there to protect juvenile fish from bulk fishing methods, and support fishery sustainability. One of the prohibited areas has been in place for over 25 years."

Fine O Muir is owned and operated by a Tauranga family and two of the sons Jason Lee McGrath and Brett John McGrath were also sentenced for their part in the illegal fishing.

Brett McGrath was convicted on one charge of making a false statement on a fishing return and fined $7500, and Jason McGrath was convicted on six charges of making a false statement on fishing returns and fined a total of $30,000.

The commercial fishing trawler Kaiti 4009 owned by Fine O Muir and used in the offending was also ordered forfeit to the crown and Fine O Muir Limited were ordered to pay a redemption fee of $20,000 for its return.

The prosecution has also resulted in Fine O Muir's contract to supply fish to a Tauranga-based licensed fish receiver being cancelled.

Mr Mikkelsen said the matter should be a lesson to all commercial operators that the consequences of operating outside the law may be far more extensive than just fines handed down by the court.

Anyone who notices suspicious activity in the fishery industry is asked to call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are kept confidential if necessary. For further information visit www.fish.govt.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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