18 Feb 2018

Penguin trust reviews sponsorship after fishers charged with ill-treatment

6:57 am on 18 February 2018

The West Coast Penguin Trust is reviewing the sponsorship it receives from the owner of a fishing vessel at the centre of claims around the mistreatment of sea birds.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Two fishers on a vessel owned by Geoff Robson have been charged with the wilful ill-treatment of seabirds caught in fishing lines, including albatross.

It's understood the bird's were bludgeoned to death.

The chair of the Penguin Trust, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, said they were aware of allegations that a skipper had mistreated sea birds at the time they accepted $10,000 from Mr Robson, but had accepted his assurances he knew nothing about it.

The just revealed charges may cast things in a different light and the matter would be discussed at the trust's next meeting, she said.

"If new information suggests to us that Geoff was complicit in this, then certainly we could not accept his money."

The charges come at the same time as an admission from another skipper on the boat, Geoff Robson's son Andrew, that failing to report the deaths of sea birds is commonplace within the industry.

It was made during an employment case when Andrew Robson said up to 20 birds a year were accidentally caught in fishing lines on the boat but not recorded in the boat's log book as required by law.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said it's not able to lay charges because it happened too long ago.

Andrew Robson could not be reached for comment.

But Geoff Robson said all bycatch involving sea birds was now being logged.

"It's a serious business. I mean we're disgusted with what's happened but we can't undo it unfortunately. If you don't know about these things you can't correct it. As soon as we found out (about the log book offending), the problem was solved immediately."

Geoff Robson said he could not comment on the charges of wilful ill-treatment of seabirds faced by two crew on the boat as the matter was still before the courts.

But he said he would support cameras on boats to help ensure skippers were recording bycatch accurately in their log books.

Forest and Bird spokesperson Geoff Keey said it was these sort of rare insights in to what was really going on on board boats that should be signalling alarm bells for the government and showed the need for cameras on all fishing boats.

"If we have a camera on the boat then everybody on the boat knows that if stuff is not reported, someone would end up in trouble. It changes behaviour overnight."

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