A commercial fisher has been fined $26,500 after he failed to report around 2.5 tonnes of fish, primarily snapper, along with some kahawai and gurnard.
Hamish Robert Apatu was sentenced in April in the Kaitaia District Court on three charges under the Fisheries Act based around his commercial fishing reports and the financial benefit gained by not filing them accurately.
Following an investigation by Fisheries New Zealand, discrepancies were found in the numbers and weights of fish landed by Apatu’s company, Apatu Enterprises Limited, at their Licensed Fish Receiver in Cable Bay between 30 December 2020 and 30 March 2022.
“Around 249 bins of snapper, 62 bins of kahawai, and five bins of gurnard were omitted from the official records. That’s around 2.5 tonnes of snapper and some kahawai and gurnard. It would have cost around $18,000 to gain quota in the form of Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) to land these fish. By not having ACE, the fish taken was unaccounted for and the only motivation for doing this would be to maximise profits,” said Fisheries New Zealand regional manager fisheries compliance, Phil Tasker.
Apatu’s fishing vessel, Valiant, was forfeited and he was ordered to pay $12,000 to have it released. He was also imposed a deemed value penalty of $21,255 for the unreported fish, in addition to the court-imposed fine of $26,500.
“When we find evidence of fishing rules being deliberately broken for financial gain, we will investigate and if appropriate place the matter before the court. The rules are there for a reason – to ensure the sustainability of fishing resources into the future,” said Tasker.
Apatu’s fishing operation from his vessel, Valiant, would target snapper in Doubtless Bay and generally did single-day fishing trips.
“Two-and-a-half tonnes of snapper is a lot of fish. The resource is there for everyone, and Mr Apatu was taking far more than his share,” said Tasker.