Charges of discarding quota fish at sea and then misreporting the catch have been found proven against the captain of the Korean fishing vessel Oyang 77 that did 11 trips in the New Zealand region.
The vessel remained tied up Lyttelton and the trial judge, Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan, was able to visit it during the 14-day hearing last year. His reserved decision at the end of the judge-alone trial has just been released.
The Ministry of Primary Industries called evidence from five Indonesian crew members, a fisheries observer, and three fisheries officers, and there was one defence witness –the vessel’s chief officer.
The captain, Dae Jun Lee, 30, pleaded guilty during the trial to charges of omitting to report that a basking shark had been caught in the net and returned to the sea, and omitting to include details in the catch documentation about fish catch lost at sea when a net broke and sank.
Judge Callaghan found the 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, and referring to hoki, ghost shark, ling, sea perch, squid, and lookdown dory.
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.
The owners have made application for the court to consider a “special reasons” argument which may affect penalty. A pre-sentence conference will be held to settle arrangements for submissions on that issue.
There was a pay dispute when the vessel docked at Lyttelton in March 2012, about the crew being required to receive no less than the New Zealand minimum wage while in the New Zealand Fishing Management Area.
However, Judge Callaghan rejected the suggestion that the crew members were embellishing or making up evidence to put pressure on Sajo to resolve their pay claims. He said: “I find absolutely nothing in the suggestion that these witnesses were giving evidence with this agenda in mind.”
He found there was evidence that Lee had played an active role in ordering, directing, or overseeing some discarding of fish at sea. But there was also evidence which strongly suggested that other Korean officers gave similar orders to discard, and there was also evidence that crew members may have discarded fish on their own volition.
Some evidence relating to discarding where the judge was not satisifed it was at the direction of Lee. 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.
Mark Dollimore appeared as defence counsel for Lee, who was not at the hearing because he is overseas. Chris Lange appeared as prosecutor for the Ministry of Primary Industries.