5 Oct 2021

Man charged for trading $1.2m of unreported seafood named

3:16 pm on 5 October 2021

A man behind an illegal fishing operation involving almost a million dollars worth of black market pāua and crayfish can now be named.

Recovered paua

Recovered pāua. Photo: Supplied / MPI

Michael Vernon Weaver, 42, and his company Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited faced 19 joint charges for trading more than 12 tonnes of unreported seafood from the Chatham Islands valued at more than $900,000.

He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court in July, but name suppression only lifted today.

Weaver pled guilty and was sentenced to 12 months home detention and fined $525,000.

Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited, of which Weaver is the sole director, was fined the same amount.

Recovered paua

Photo: Supplied / MPI

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said more than 1.6 tonnes of his company's crayfish quota shares valued at over $1.2 million have also been forfeited to the Crown.

Director of compliance services Gary Orr said under Weaver's management Snapper Seafoods LTD received unreported seafood between January 2017 and March 2018.

The two fishermen who sold him the seafood, Kevan Huia Clarke and Robin Andrew Page have already been sentenced for their roles in the offending.

"Without Mr Weaver's company, Southen Ocean Seafoods Limited, this offending by the commercial fishers would not have been possible - he colluded with the fishers involved, agreeing to false amounts of fish to declare for the record.

"It should be noted that Mr Weaver deliberately misled Snapper Seafoods, the company he used to receive the illegal catch. Snapper Seafoods were not aware of the deception and were not charged," Orr said.

Recovered paua

Photo: Supplied / MPI

The sentence sent a strong message that this kind of offending would be investigated and placed before the courts, he said.

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

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