Four Korean shipping officers have been fined a total of $424,500 for illegally dumping fish at sea.
The captain of the fishing vessel Oyang 75 was fined the most - almost half of the total amount - during sentencing at the Christchurch District Court today.
In May, the shipping officers were charged with dumping around 400 tonnes of quota fish, predominantly hoki, at sea during March 2011, mostly in the waters of the Chatham Rise.
The dumped fish is believed to have been worth between $800,000 and $1.4 million.
"The captain was
taking more than the factory could produce, fish was spoiling and then they were dumping that fish and replacing that with fresh fish and none of that was coming off quota," said Peter Hyde of the Ministry for Primary Industries.
"It was pretty soul destroying because my role as an observer was to protect the fish stocks," said Lisa Dyer, a fisheries officer who witnessed one of the dumpings.
None of the four officers turned up at court to hear their sentences.
Ministry of Fisheries began investigating the officers of the vessel Oyang 75 over their activities last year.
One of the charges related to the dumping of a large Basking shark, the second largest fish in the world.
The Indonesian and Filipino crew of the Oyang 75 also walked off the ship when it docked in Lyttelton after two fishery trips last year, citing issues with inhumane treatment, long hours, and pay issues.
Ministry of Fisheries prosecutor Grant Fletcher told the court today that this is the worst case of fish dumping that ministry has ever brought before a New Zealand court.
The judge has also ordered the forfeiture of the Oyang 75, worth $12 million, which means the vessel will be ordered to return to New Zealand.