NZ: Sealord sentenced for bottom trawling in protected area

Ocean Dawn. Photo: Sealord
Ocean Dawn. Photo: Sealord

The Sealord Group has been ordered to forfeit a US$16 million vessel and fined NZ$24,000 in the Nelson District Court for bottom trawling in a protected area.

Sealord vessel master Bolen Terric Goomes was fined NZ$7,500 and first mate Thomas Adrian Pope was fined NZ$5,000. They were convicted on one representative charge each, relating to five trawls for the company, three trawls for the skipper, and two trawls for the first mate. The charges relate to fishing in an area closed to bottom trawling activity, contrary to Fisheries (Benthic Protection Areas) Regulations 2007.

"All bottom trawling and dredging is illegal in Benthic Protected Areas," said Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI's) Director of Compliance Gary Orr. "To ensure that fishing gear does not touch the bottom, trawling within 100 metres of the seabed is prohibited within a Benthic Protection Area."

The convictions resulted from a hoki fishing trip on Sealord's commercial fishing vessel Ocean Dawn to the Chatham Rise, approximately 200 nautical miles east of Christchurch, within New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

The offending was detected by MPI on October 29, 2018. The offending relates to five trawls that occurred during October 26 to October 28, 2018. Sealord also self-reported the offence. Four of the five trawls took place partially inside the Mid-Chatham Rise Benthic Protection Area. The final trawl was entirely inside the protection area. For each of the trawls, the net was hard on the seabed and within the lower buffer zone of 50 metres off the bottom.

The quantity of sponges reported caught as bycatch by Sealord in the five illegal trawls was 1,300 kilograms.

Approximately 40,000 kilograms of fish was caught during the five trawls. Some of this fish was caught inside the Benthic Protection Area.

In addition to the vessel Ocean Dawn being forfeit, the proceeds from the sale of the entire catch taken in the five offending trawls is also forfeit, which amounts to NZ$112,294.13.

Sealord Group can make an application to the courts for relief from the effects of forfeiture in relation to the vessel.

The defendants were sentenced on the basis that they had not deliberately bottom trawled in a protected area, but they had failed to take reasonable steps to avoid the offending.

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