The deepwater division of Nelson-based fishing company Talley's Group has successfully appealed an illegal fishing conviction.
Amaltal Fishing Co was fined more than $25,000 in March after one of its vessels, the Amaltal Mariner, was found to have fished in the Hikurangi Marine Reserve off the coast of Kaikōura while trawling for orange roughy in 2019.
The company appealed the conviction on the basis that the unlawful actions of the skipper, Darryle Saunders, could not be attributed to Amaltal because he was employed by Talley's and was not acting as an agent for Amaltal.
At a hearing earlier in the year, Amaltal further argued Saunders had clear instructions from the company to ensure he was fully aware of the areas he was fishing in and not to fish in closed areas.
Saunders was also charged and earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of removing marine life from the Hikurangi Marine Reserve for commercial purposes and was fined $15,525.
He has not appealed his conviction.
The Hikurangi Marine Reserve was established in 2014 and extends 23 kilometres offshore, covers 10,460 hectares and includes 1.95 kilometres of shoreline.
It encompasses the Kaikōura Canyon which is recognised as one of the most biologically rich ocean habitats in the world.
On 17 March 2019, the Amaltal Mariner bottom trawled, approximately 900 metres inside the Hikurangi Reserve for 10 to 12 minutes, across more than a kilometre.
It was estimated 104 kilograms of fish were caught inside the marine reserve, which was processed and sold for $489.58.
Saunders maintained he was unaware he had been inside the Hikurangi Marine Reserve when he commenced trawling as it had not been marked on the Amaltal Mariner's electronic plotters.
Justice Christine Grice set aside the conviction, finding Saunders was not acting as an agent for Amaltal at the time, so the company could not be held liable for his actions.
Amaltal was fined $25,875, which it will now be repaid.