Fines totalling $309,000 were imposed on officers who dumped fish at sea from the Korean trawler Melilla 201 that has already been sold and is heading for the breaker’s yard in India.
The trawler captain, Kyung Jin Kim, is now operating a different vessel off the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
The Melilla 201 was seized after its two voyages off the New Zealand coast in 2011, which led to the master, vice captain, and factory manager being charged. Indonesian crewmen gave evidence at the Christchurch District Court trial.
Judge Alistair Garland found the three guilty his decision on the judge-alone trial in October. None of them were present for the sentencing today and the Crown has admitted that none of the large fines imposed in earlier fisheries cases involving foreign crews have ever been paid.
The Melilla was held at the Port of Otago after its seizure and was sold by court order in December for $200,000. A website which tracks these vessels indicates it is now in port in India where it is believed it will be scrapped.
Judge Garland said it was hard to believe that these factory-trawlers, with sophisticated gear aboard, were worth so little, and this one would be “turned into trash”.
But the prosecutor for the Ministry of Primary Industries, Chris Lange, explained that the vessel’s certificate of seaworthiness had expired while it was held under seizure in Port Chalmers, and it was extremely expensive to get the survey work done to have the certificate renewed.
Judge Garland found that the vessel had dumped 260 tonnes of hoki on the first trip, and 120 tonnes of barracuda on the second voyage. The benefit to the company from dumping fish and then catching higher value fish for processing was US$279,000.
He said it was a case where the vessel was catching as much fish as possible irrespective of the on-board factory’s ability to process it in a given time. The discarding of the unprocessed fish resulted from “sloppy, negligent fishing practices”.
He imposed fines of $98,000 on Kim, who had been represented at the trial and raised issues about his ability to pay fines. The judge said he believed Kim would be able to pay the fine from his present and future earnings. Kim was found guilty of fish dumping, and admitted making false or misleading reports on the vessel’s catch returns.
He had no information about the personal circumstances of the other two men.
He imposed fines totalling $112,000 on the vice captain, Soon Chor Hong, who was found guilty on charges of fishing dumping, and filing false or misleading returns.
The factory manager, Il Son, was fined $99,000 on the charges of fish dumping.