Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited owner fined for illegal seafood trading

Published on
October 12, 2021
A recovered pāua pot used in an illegal fishing operation.

A New Zealand man and his company were fined for illegally trading nearly NZD 1 million (USD 693,758, EUR 601,258) worth of pāua and crayfish caught near the Chatham Islands.

The man, Michael Vernon Weaver, and his company, Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited, faced 19 joint charges under New Zealand's Fisheries Act for trading more than 12 metric tons of unreported seafood, valued at more than NZD 900,000 (USD 626,000, EUR 541,000), a media release from the Office of the Ministry for Primary Industries said. Weaver was sentenced to 12 months home detention and fined NZD 525,000 (USD 365,000, EUR 315,000), and his company was fined the same amount. He also forfeited 1.6 metric tons of the company’s crayfish quota, valued at over NZD 1.2 million (USD 835,000, EUR 721,000).

According to the report, under Weaver’s management, Snapper Seafoods Ltd. received unreported seafood from Chatham Islands fishers Kevin Huia Clarke and Robin Andrew Page between January 2017 and March 2018. The two fishers have already been sentenced for their roles in the illegal fishing.

"Without Mr. Weaver's company, Southen Ocean Seafoods Limited, this offending by the commercial fishers would not have been possible,” MPI Director of Compliance Services Gary Orr said. "He colluded with the fishers involved, agreeing to false amounts of fish to declare for the record.”

Orr said Snapper Seafoods was unaware of the illegal actions.

“Mr. Weaver deliberately misled Snapper Seafoods, the company he used to receive the illegal catch,’ Orr said. “Snapper Seafoods were not aware of the deception and were not charged.”

The sentence, the statement said, concluded “a long-running” MPI investigation into the offenses.

"Whether you’re a commercial fisher or involved in the management of landed fish product – records will be inspected," Orr said. "If we find evidence of illegal operations, we will hold you to account." 

Photo courtesy of the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries

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