11 Jun 2012

Korean fishing officers accused of dumping catch

9:32 pm on 11 June 2012

Five Korean fishing officers deliberately and systematically dumped New Zealand quota fish with a value of almost $1.3 million, a court has been told.

Wongeun Kang, Juncheol Lee, Minsu Park, Tae Jo and Chong Yun are accused of illegally dumping up to 1000 tonnes of fish during two trips on the Korean-owned Oyang 75 in 2011 and of making false statements.

The accused did not appear in the Christchurch District Court on Monday.

The Ministry of Fisheries, now part of the Ministry for Primary Industries, believes the men have left New Zealand and are likely to be fishing elsewhere.

Ministry lawyer Grant Fletcher told the court a ministry observer on the second trip in May last year became aware that fish was being tipped overboard in a systematic way.

Mr Fletcher said the Indonesian crew did not object to this because they were scared of the "cruel" officers. He said the observer was prevented from contacting the ministry and felt intimidated and unsafe on the vessel.

The crew later abandoned the fishing boat, citing inhumane conditions and long hours.

The court was told that much of the dumping went unreported, but Mr Fletcher said one charge related to the illegal dumping of half a tonne of giant spider crab.

That dumping was reported, but was given a code that was supposed to be used for non-quota fish.

"This species is quota and is not allowed to be dumped. This was declared as being dumped, it is a contravention of Section 72 and reveals the defendants' cavalier and arrogant attitude to the rules."

The Oyang 75 was chartered by New Zealand firm Southern Storm.

Deckhand feared officers

Slamet Raharjo was one of 33 Indonesian crew on board the vessel. Speaking through a translator, the deckhand told the court on Monday the fishermen worked up to 48-hour shifts and had only short meal breaks.

Mr Raharjo said on one trip he saw whole hoki being discarded and estimated that up to 30% of the vessel's catch had been dumped.

He said in 17 years of working on fishing boats he had never seen dumping like it, but felt he had to follow orders.

"I had no choice but to do this. If I refused, I would be reported to the Korean officers and sent home."

Mr Raharjo said he was fearful of two of the officers, whom he described as angry people.