In a New Zealand first, the Ministry of Fisheries is reporting that forensic paint sampling has been used to identify the location of a vessel where fish were illegally dumped.
Snapper was the kind of fish illegally dumped.
Tauranga commercial fisher Ross Ian Harvey pleaded guilty in the Tauranga District Court on September 12 to a charge of being a party to the dumping of snapper by West Coast Fishing Limited.
Harvey was today fined $27,000, which is believed to be one of the largest fines for this type of offending.
Initially the case had been set down for a two-week defended hearing due to the involved nature of the case which had 13 witnesses for the Crown.
The incident occurred on the 6 August 2009 when Harvey was skipper of the commercial Danish Seine fishing vessel Garraway.
A local recreational fisher came across an estimated 1000 snapper floating about 4km north of the Ohiwa Harbour entrance in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
The fisher provided a GPS position and estimated that there was an area of about 4000 square metres with snapper floating in it.
On arrival at the scene, Opotiki Fishery Officers collected samples of snapper still floating.
All were found to be well over the minimum commercial size limit of 25cm.
The Ministry of Fisheries field operations manager for Poverty Bay, Tom Teneti, says dumping of legal size quota species is prohibited under the Fisheries Act 1996 because all legal size quota species must be landed and counted against the fisher's annual catch entitlement (ACE).
'The fishery officers found blue paint embedded under the scales of two of the snapper,” says Tom.
'The paint was scientifically tested by the University of Otago Chemistry Isotrace unit.
'This contributed to identification of the source of the dumped snapper – the Garraway.”
Electronic evidence obtained from the vessel was also used in the investigation to identify the vessel as being in the vicinity at the time the fish were dumped.
'A process of elimination was applied to make sure no other vessel could have been involved in the vicinity of the detected dumping.”
He congratulated fishery officers and those who undertook the forensic examination on their work.