A seafood company and its owner have been fined for a commercial scam responsible for almost $1 million worth of black-market pāua and crayfish from the Chatham Islands.
Michael Vernon Weaver and his company Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited faced 19 joint charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 for the offending.
Weaver pleaded guilty to charges related to trading more than 12 tonnes of unreported seafood, valued at more than $900,000. He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court in July, but name suppression was in place until early October.
The 42-year-old was sentenced to 12 months home detention and fined $525,000, and his company – for which he is the sole director – was fined $525,000. More than 1.6 tonnes of the company’s crayfish quota shares valued at over $1.2 million have also been forfeited to the Crown.
The Ministry of Primary Industries’ (MPI) investigation found that under Weaver’s management, Snapper Seafoods Ltd received unreported seafood between January 2017 and March 2018 from Chatham Islands fishers. Fishers Kevan Huia Clarke and Robin Andrew Page have already been sentenced for their roles in the offending (2020).
“Without Mr Weaver’s company, Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited, this offending by the commercial fishers would not have been possible,” said MPI director of compliance services, Gary Orr.
“He colluded with the fishers involved, agreeing to false amounts of fish to declare for the record.
“It should be noted that Mr Weaver deliberately misled Snapper Seafoods, the company he used to receive the illegal catch. Snapper Seafoods were not aware of the deception and were not charged.”
Orr added that the investigation unfolded after fishery officers found more than half a tonne of unreported pāua in Chatham Island fisher Kevan Clarke’s catch documentation.
“Further investigation found more discrepancies between reported catch and what had been reported as received by Mr Weaver and his company Southen Ocean Seafoods Ltd.”
Weaver’s sentence ends a long-running MPI investigation into the offending, says Orr, and sends a strong message – “this kind of offending will be investigated and placed before the courts.”
“Whether you’re a commercial fisher or involved in the management of landed fish product, records will be inspected. If we find evidence of illegal operations, we will hold you to account.”
To report any suspicious fishing activity, call the MPI 0800 4 POACHER hotline (0800 47 62 24).