Commercial fishery fined more than $1mil

By Te Ao - Māori News

A Napier commercial fishing company, its directors and general manager have been fined a total of more than $1mil for sustained under-reporting of bluenose.

Hawkes Bay Seafoods (HBS) and two subsidiary companies, Esplanade No 3 and Ocean Enterprises Limited, as well as HBS directors, Antonino and Giancarlo D’Esposito, and general manager, Marcus D’Esposito were all charged in 2017 with offences under the Fisheries Act.

All parties pleaded guilty last year to under-reporting 27 tonnes of bluenose linked to export consignments to Australia between 2012 and 2014.  They were sentenced today in the Wellington District Court.

As well as being fined a total of $1,086,673, the defendants were ordered to pay $418,500 in redemption fees for the return of four fishing vessels that the court ordered to be forfeited to the Crown after the offending.

The Ministry for Primary Industries Manager of Fisheries Compliance Steve Ham says today’s result is significant.

“This was sustained offending that happened over a number of years,” says Ham.

“The judgement today shows very clearly that Marcus D’Esposito knew his actions were against the law.  The outcome sends a clear message to anyone who is thinking of offending similarly: MPI will ensure that people who break the law in this way are dealt with accordingly.”

The offending was uncovered when MPI found that the weight of bluenose recorded in the company’s documents was different to the actual amount being sent to be sold in Australia.  There were 15 separate occasions where exports of under-reported fish were identified for sale.

“Efforts to ensure the sustainability of any fish stock are reliant on accurate and truthful information about the catch. This is critical to maintaining the integrity of the Quota Management System,” says Ham.

“Offending of this nature not only affects the sustainability of a fishery but has the potential to significantly impact New Zealand’s reputation internationally.  It also affects the public perception of the commercial fishing industry.

“In this case, the illegal activity was premeditated and showed a blatant disregard for the QMS. The people behind this offending were caught and have paid the price. We make no apologies for that.