Restaurant Association of New Zealand

Black Market Fish

Tauranga fishing trawler likely to be seized following apparent black market activity. Fishery officers have seized a Tauranga-based commercial fishing trawler and two refrigerated trucks, following an investigation into a large scale black market operation.

A quantity of snapper and a large amount of cash has also been seized.

The seizures follow the execution of several Authorities to Enter today, at the Auckland and Tauranga homes of the trawler's skipper, permit holder and those of the two truck drivers.

Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Districts Field Operations Manager Brendon Mikkelsen says the Ministry had been covertly monitoring the men activities for the past two months.

In that time, we believe that more than 12 tonnes of the trawler's catch has not been reported as required," he says. Instead, it appears to have been sold on the black market in Tauranga and Auckland.

Our surveillance shows that much of this illegal activity happened at night or in the early hours of the morning. Those buying the black market fish appear to be a combination of takeaway outlets and businesses that are not Licensed Fish Receivers and further investigations of those premises are continuing.

Mr Mikkelsen says not reporting fish caught under the Quota Management System (QMS) is a serious offence.

New Zealand QMS is a world class fisheries management programme, he says.However, it relies on the accurate and timely reporting of all fish that is commercially caught and sold.

Deliberately failing to do that, as it appears has been the case here, is effectively the theft of fish from other members of the fishing industry and from the wider community. This type of offending also risks the future sustainability of the fishery.

Mr Mikkelsen says the Ministry also believes the fishing vessel, the New Fish II 4363, was involved in the apparent dumping of snapper near Town Point, Maketu in September.

Thanks to a local recreational fisher, who provided us with timely information about the alleged dumping, we were able to use a helicopter to respond immediately to his report. That suspected dumping now forms part of our investigation and it is likely that the vessel's electronics will be analysed to provide more information.

Mr Mikkelsen urged fishing industry operators and recreational fishers to report any suspected illegal activity through the Ministry's 0800 4 Poacher number (0800 4 76224).

All calls are treated in the strictest confidence and the information we receive helps us stamp out illegal fishing and helps ensure we have a sustainable fishery for future generations.

For more information, please contact:
Brendon Mikkelsen
Field Operations Manager
Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Districts
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
DDI (07) 571 2817
Mobile: (0274) 913-118