$120,500 fisheries fines for trawler captain

Court House-Sept-2013-05Fines totalling $120,500 were imposed on the captain of Korean fishing vessel Oyang 77 for dumping quota fish at sea and misreporting the catch.

With the conviction and sentencing of the captain, Dae Jun Lee, 30, the trawler and its fishing gear is now automatically forfeited to the Crown.

However, the prosecutor for the Ministry of Primary Industries, Chris Lange, said it was expected that the owners would file an application for relief from forfeiture, which would trigger a separate hearing.

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 trawler is a sister ship to the Oyang 70, which sank off Otago in August 2010 killing six, and of the Oyang 75, whose crew walked off in protest at claimed inhumane conditions aboard.

The Oyang 77 did 11 trawling trips in the New Zealand region, and was tied up at Lyttelton during the 14-day hearing last year. Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan, was able to visit it during the hearing.

Lee 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. He was found guilty of the fish dumping and misreporting charges at the end of the trial.

Mr Lange said there was an inherent difficulty in prosecuting this type of case and presenting accurate evidence at the hearing. “The fisheries regime relies on the honesty of those who exercise the privilege of fishing to ensure the sustainability of the fishery for current and a future generations.”

Lee had been aware of his obligations not to dump fish at sea, and had told crew not to do any dumping when a fisheries observer was on board.

Squid, hoki, barracouta were involved in the discarding and false catch returns. The total amount of catch involved was 75.8 tonnes.

Mr Lange said 53 tonnes of hoki had been dumped because it was uneconomic to process because the fish was small or damaged, and then higher quality fish worth $73,000 had been caught and processed.

Defence counsel Mark Dollimore contrasted the Crown call for a $200,000 fine with comparable cases. There was no suggestion that the discarding resulted in anything more than an increase in pay through an incentive scheme for Lee. He suggested fines totalling no more than $80,000.

Judge Callaghan said the offending was clandestine and difficult to discover and prosecute. “The protection of the resource and its proper management is a major factor as well.”

Lee was not at court for the sentencing. The Oyang 77 is at present fishing off Uruguay, South America. The Crown holds a bond in such cases.

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