A fishing industry researcher says the international spotlight on pollution by a major New Zealand fishing company will undermine the country's clean green image.
A US court has fined Sanford Ltd for dumping oil waste in the sea around American Samoa over a number of years and trying to cover it up.
The US District Court in Washington DC fined the company $US1.9 million and ordered it to pay a community service payment of $US500,000.
The company has also been banned from operating in US waters until its environmental policies are audited.
Researcher Glenn Simmons from Auckland University says New Zealand authorities should have picked up that the boat was bypassing its oil water seperator and stopped it from sailing.
He says the case is a blemish on the country's supposedly clean green image.
Mr Simmons says it will happen again unless Maritime New Zealand cracks down on other vessels which also dump their oil waste.
Maritime New Zealand says it takes a zero tolerance approach to breaches of its rules on discharging oily waste.
Meanwhile, Maritime Union president Garry Parsloe said Sanford's penalty was harsh, but appropriate.
Mr Parsloe said all New Zealand vessels in US waters are now likely to face greater scrutiny.