Sanford Limited says it accepts judge's decision on forfeiture of vessel due to illegal fishing

Auckland, New Zealand-based Sanford Limited said in a statement on 26 February that it will work “constructively to expeditiously address the matter of forfeiture” of its NZD 20 million (USD 14.4 million, EUR 12 million) vessel San Waitaki after it was caught illegally fishing in a protected area.

“We wish to say upfront that we absolutely accept the judge’s decision. We are very sorry about what happened and are disappointed in ourselves,” the company said in a statement.

Last week, Judge S. J. O’Driscoll in the Christchurch District Court, in the case of Ministry for Primary Industries v Walker, Lash and Sanford Limited, handed down a NZD 36,000 (USD 26,080, EUR 21,682) fine against Sanford. The judgment also ordered and has confirmed the forfeiture of the San Waitaki, the vessel caught illegally fishing. 

In New Zealand, the benthic protection areas (BPA) are areas of seabed in New Zealand where some fishing activity is prohibited. On numerous occasions in 2017 and 2018, the judge found, employees of Sanford fished in the protected zone.

Sanford said despite the mistakes which led to the case against the company, they have always supported the introduction of protected areas in New Zealand.

“Our commitment to sustainability is real. We do make mistakes sometimes, but our determination to do the right thing runs through our company,” the company said.

The judge himself noted that “there was no intention by any of the parties to commit an offense” and “Sanford has an excellent record in this area.”

The company said that the BPA area was not registered on the computer system of San Waitaki when it was caught.

Sanford said while the vessel has GPS on board, it did not have the small BPA area outlined in its electronic chart. 

“It was human error that the charts were not updated as they should have been,” Sanford said. “We have since put systems in place to minimize the risk of this happening again.”

It also ensured that the system is already in place to alert the vessel that it's entering within half of a nautical mile of a BPA. 

“Our people work hard to do what’s right and look after the places we operate in,” the company said. “We all understand the seriousness of an error like this, and we are all focused on the education, technology, and communication needed to prevent future mistakes.”  


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