Fishing company Amaltal says it does not condone fishing in closed areas, and never has.
Amaltal has been fined $27,600 for a single charge under the Marine Reserves Act 1971 at the Nelson District Court today.
The company was found guilty of a single charge of fishing in a Marine Reserve, in November 2020, after the Amaltal Mariner’s skipper mistakenly towed for 12 minutes in the Hikurangi Marine Reserve in March 2019.
The skipper had earlier apologized for his mistake and for acting contrary to company policy and instruction. He pleaded guilty to a single charge and was fined $15,525 in May 2020. Amaltal remains of the view that it should not be held liable for a well-trained and highly-resourced skipper’s mistake.
The Judge and the prosecution recognised the offending was inadvertent and not deliberate. She was complimentary of Amaltal’s actions since the incursion and their cooperation with MPI. The judge also accepted that the risk of harm was minor, and that there was no evidence in this matter of damage to the seabed. She recognized that whilst at sea the master of a vessel has the full responsibility for the operation of vessel.
Amaltal spokesperson Tony Hazlett said the company stands by its defence that Amaltal acted lawfully.
"Amaltal takes the sustainability of the marine environments where we fish seriously, and we have never condoned fishing in closed areas in any circumstance.” said Hazlett. “We provide thorough training and in-depth ongoing instruction of skippers and crew, providing the resources and equipment necessary for fishing lawfully, including maritime charts, copies of fisheries laws, regulations, electronic navigation equipment and regular compliance training.
“The skipper of the Mariner underwent all of this training,” said Hazlett. “Therefore, we believe there should not have been attributed liability to Amaltal for this skipper’s mistake.
“We will continue to deliver on our responsibility to equip our skippers and crew with the training, instruction and tools to fish lawfully. We have also embedded into our fleet geo-fencing technology, which electronically recognises fishing boundaries on plotted maps.”
Amaltal will review the written sentencing decision when it becomes available.