Fishing company Amaltal Fishing Co Limited (a subsidiary of Talley’s Group) has been found guilty of illegally operating in the Hikurangi Marine Reserve off the coast of Kaikōura. The Amaltal Mariner was bottom trawling for orange roughy in the protected area which encompasses the Kaikōura Canyon, reportedly the most biologically rich ocean habitat known in the world at depths of below 500 metres.
This decision comes after the skipper of the Amaltal Mariner pleaded guilty and was fined earlier this year. Judge Rielly held that the actions of the skipper can be attributed to the operator of the vessel and emphasised the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Marine Reserves Act: “it would be an unfortunate outcome at law if the consequences intended by parliament would be evaded based on advanced company structures.”
Marine reserve status is the strongest legal protection available to the marine environment, and fishing in the Hikurangi Marine Reserve is prohibited. With a small fraction of Aotearoa’s oceans protected, it is vital that these protections are enforced. Trawling is destructive, damaging the structure of the seabed and habitats and resuspending sediment. The impacts of trawling can take ecosystems a long time to recover from, if they can at all.
Ministry for Primary Industries’ decision to pursue a guilty verdict for the fishing company as the operator of the vessel is encouraging and sends a message that illegal fishing in protected areas will not be tolerated. Coupled with the creation of the new ministerial portfolio of Oceans and Fisheries, OSOF is hopeful this indicates a desire of the government to crack down on illegal fishing and undertake marine reserve reform to increase protections in the marine environment and reverse biodiversity loss.
OSOF, alongside Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, Legasea, ECO and WWF will deliver a petition with around 60,000 signatures to ban bottom trawling on Wednesday 18 November.
Contributor: Helen Loveridge