WELLINGTON, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Four Korean fishermen who were responsible for the illegal dumping of 405 tonnes of fish were fined a total of 424,500 NZ dollars (352,897 U.S. dollars) in a New Zealand court Friday.
The four were convicted after members of the Indonesian crew of the Oyang 75 gave evidence against the Korean men, who were convicted of dumping native New Zealand hoki fish valued at between 800,000 NZ dollars and 1.4 million NZ dollars, said the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in a statement.
The men were charged in the Christchurch District Court with a range of offenses under the Fisheries Act 1996 that took place between March and June last year, the statement said.
Captain Chong Pil Yun received the highest level fines totaling 208,500 NZ dollars; chief officer Minsu Park was fined a total of 121,000 NZ dollars; deck bosun Wongeun Kang 60,000 NZ dollars; and radio operator Jun Cheol Lee 35,000 NZ dollars.
The Oyang 75 was operated in New Zealand waters under a foreign charter arrangement by New Zealand company Southern Storm Fishing Ltd..
MPI Canterbury/Westland district compliance manager Peter Hyde said the case showed a serious breach of trust in reporting catches of quota fish species.
"The dumping of damaged and small quota fish allowed the crew to maximize financial return through landing better quality, higher value fish," Hyde said in the statement.
The MPI investigation included interviewing the 32 Indonesian crew who had worked on the vessel during the two trips the offending took place.
"Six of the Indonesian crew remained in New Zealand to give evidence at a hearing in June this year. We are very grateful for their support and would not have achieved a prosecution without them," said Hyde.
"Our fisheries are an important resource that we all have a responsibility for sustaining, and this includes commercial fishers. The New Zealand commercial fishing industry has a good level of compliance, however there is a minority that simply refuse to comply and end up paying the price for their actions."
Under the Fisheries Act, quota species cannot be dumped by a commercial fisher unless the fish is not of legal size, in which case it must be immediately returned to the sea whether dead or alive, or it is a stock listed as a protected species.
A commercial fisher who unlawfully dumps fish commits an offence and is liable for a penalty of up to 250,000 NZ dollars.