$ 1 million fine for mining pāua and crayfish on the Chatham Islands black market

A pāua pot recovered by the Ministry of Primary Industries.

Ministry of Primary Industries / Supplied

A pāua pot recovered by the Ministry of Primary Industries.

A seafood company and its owner were fined more than $ 1 million for an illegal fishing operation that resulted in the illegal fishing of 12 tonnes of pāua and crayfish.

The deletion of the name of Michael Vernon Weaver and his company Southern Ocean Seafoods expired on Tuesday.

The Chatham Islander, 42, and his business faced 19 charges under the Fisheries Act and were convicted by Manukau District Court in July.

The charges involved 12 tonnes of undeclared seafood, valued at over $ 900,000.

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Judge Karen Grau ordered Weaver and Southern Ocean Seafoods to each pay a fine of $ 525,000. Weaver must also serve 12 months of house arrest.

Waitangi Beach on the Chatham Islands, towards Waitangi Township.  (File photo)

Monique Ford / Stuff

Waitangi Beach on the Chatham Islands, towards Waitangi Township. (File photo)

The judge also ordered that 1.6 tonnes of the company’s crayfish quota shares be forfeited to the Crown. The shares are worth over $ 1.2 million.

Department of Primary Industries compliance director Gary Orr said under Weaver’s direction Snapper Seafoods Ltd received undeclared seafood between 2017 and 2018 from fishermen in the Chatham Islands.

He said the fishermen, Kevan Huia Clarke and Robin Andrew Page, were sentenced for their roles in 2020.

“Without Mr. Weaver’s company, Southern Ocean Seafoods Limited, this violation by commercial fishermen would not have been possible.

“He came to an understanding with the fishermen involved, agreeing to false quantities of fish to be declared for the dossier.”

Orr said Weaver misled Snapper Seafoods, who was unaware of the deception.

“Mr Weaver’s sentence ends a lengthy MPI investigation into the offense and sends a strong message – this type of offense will be investigated and brought to court.”

Anyone could report suspicious fishing activity by calling the MPI 0800 4 POACHER hotline, Orr said.

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