Fisheries officials in New Zealand estimates up to $1.4 million worth of fish was dumped at sea during the foreign trawler Oyang 75’s two fishing trips off the South Island.
The taking of evidence was completed in a formal proof hearing against five Korean officers of the fishing vessel at the Christchurch District Court today.
The formal proof process is being used because none of the defendants have returned to New Zealand from overseas to face the charges. However, the Crown is holding the bond under which the Oyang 75 was released from seizure.
Judge David Saunders has been hearing the evidence in stages over the last nine days and today reserved his decision.
Since the hearing began, Fisheries has estimated the amount of fish which was illegally dumped at sea as being worth between $755,000 and $1.4 million.
Fishery analyst Damien Johnson told the court it was estimated that between 330 tonnes and 600 tonnes of fish was discarded over the two trips the Oyang 75 made in 2011.
The court was read evidence from fisheries observer Susannah Barham, who was aboard the Oyang 75 on its second trip when it put in at Lyttelton because of mechanical issues. Barham is overseas at present.
She told of a series of incidents in which she saw quota fish being discarded without permission.
She told of being summoned to dinner in the officers’ mess one evening and finding the captain, radio operator, and bosun drinking the alcoholic drink soju.
By the end of the dinner the captain and the bosun were quite drunk, she said. When she returned to the mess later, they were very drunk.
She said the bosun, Wongeun Kang, followed her to the factory area on-board. He had been entertaining himself by locking a crew member in the fish pound (a storage area). I was appalled by his behaviour and intervened because I saw it as a safety issue.
She said she felt uncomfortable when he continued following her and she went to the bridge to be in the presence of people.
The Indonesian crew members on the Oyang 75 later walked off the ship at Lyttelton citing issues with inhumane treatment, long hours, and pay issues.
Barham’s evidence told the court of seeing officers acting in an aggressive way towards crew members. She cited incidents of Kang giving crew a quick smack across the head or throwing fish at them. The factory manager and chief officer would yell at them in an angry and aggressive tone.
Crew would work for up to 10 hours to get processing completed when a trawl had been carried out, and there would be only a few hours’ rest between trawls. There was no shift system operating.
The master of the fishing boat, Chong Pil Yun, 41, is charged with aiding the dumping of fish, making false or misleading statements, and hindering a fisheries observer.
The deck bosun, Kang, 42,is charged with aiding the dumpings.
Juncheol Lee, 36, who was the radio operator, and the chief officer, Minsu Park, 41, are charged with aiding the dumpings, and making false or misleading statements.
Tae Won Jo, 51, was the factory manager and is charged with aiding the dumpings.
Fisheries officials allege that damaged and small quota fish were dumped at sea. Fish caught that were not worth a great deal were discarded and higher quality fish was then caught to maximise returns for the company.