Thursday, February 19, 2015

19/02/2015: Fish dumping investigated off Auckland coast

A trawler which accidentally dumped a large amount of gurnard into the Tasman Sea off Auckland's west coast is unlikely to be prosecuted, industry sources say, New Zealand's Stuff website reports.

The unnamed vessel has reported the dumping of small and juvenile red gurnard to the Ministry for Primary Industries, which has begun an investigation.

By reporting the accident the company can avoid prosecution but will have to pay a penalty on the deemed value of the fish sent overboard.

Stuff could not reach the company which operates the trawler suspected of being involved in the incident.

Auckland's biggest fishing company, Sanford, says the dump is not related to their operations.

Labour MP Rino Tirikatene claims MPI has pulled its fisheries officers off normal duties to work on the Queensland fruit fly incident in Auckland.

He said the Government needed to step up its enforcement of "flagrant violators of our inshore fishery."

"Instead of hunting fruit flies they should be doing their job. Sound fisheries management is vital."

Fisherman Kerren Packer yesterday filmed the find 50 kilometres off Piha and running into Karekare Beach.

None of the fish filmed appear to be mature or adult fish.

"As far as the eye can see," Packer said.

"Prime eating gurnard mixed in with juveniles….

"This is a complete and utter waste, absolute waste."

He claimed fish dumping was happening every day and said he would name who he believed was responsible.

"This is happening everyday in New Zealand," he said.

"This is not the result of the quotas… this is exactly what quotas are designed to do. It is not designed to protect fish, it is designed to make profits."

He said yesterday there were acres and acres of quota fish dumped across the Tasman "out of sight, out of mind".

"How can this be sustainable?" he asked.

A spokeswoman for Sanford said they had two vessels fishing on the West Coast and both vessels berthed at Onehunga on Monday night and sailed today.

On their last trips San Rakaia had an MPI observer on board.

San Hikurangi fished well north of the area where the fish were reportedly found.

"Both vessel have tracking systems on board so their actual positions are recorded and can be verified by MPI," she said.

"Sanford also has plenty of quota to cover all catch of quota species and Sanford has a policy to pay its fishermen for all fish landed so there is no incentive for them to discard any fish."

Earlier in the day MPI chief operations officer Andrew Coleman said  the large amount of dead fish could have a number of explanations.

"It could be a phytoplankton bloom or there could be a virus in the fish, or it could be dumping," he said.

MPI would try to sample the dead fish.

The Fisheries Act outlaws dumping of fish by quota-holders.

"No commercial fisher shall return to or abandon in the sea or any other waters any fish, aquatic life, or seaweed of legal size, or for which no legal size is set, that is subject to the quota management system," the act says.

Throwing undersized gurnard overboard is illegal, with fines up to $250,000.

The area of the incident is in the Gurnard Auckland (GUR1) quota area. Last year 1.005 million kilogrammes of gurnard were caught out of a total allowable commercial catch of 2.2 million kilogrammes.

Forest and Bird have concerns around gurnard fishing, especially on the west coast, because of the presence Hector's or Maui's dolphins.

Read the article HERE.

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