Commercial fisher and fishing partner fined $3,530, boat forfeited for breaking blue cod recreational fishing rules and lying

A commercial fisher and his fishing partner have been fined $3,530 for having more than five times the daily limit for blue cod, some in an unmeasurable state, along with lying about how many fishers were on board their boat.

The daily recreational limit in Marlborough Sounds is 2 blue cod per person with a minimum size of 33cm. Blue cod must be presented either gutted or whole. They should not be filleted, unless they’re being eaten immediately as it would make it difficult to judge whether the fillet came from a fish of legal size.

Commercial fisher Justin Richard Searle (51) and Andre Julian Christian (54) both pleaded guilty to three charges each under the Fisheries Act and were sentenced in the Nelson District Court.

“Our expectation is that a commercial fisher would be aware of the recreational rules and would be ensuring that his less experienced fishing colleague was also schooled up on the rules. Blue cod is an iconic fish, and the daily limit per person is low (2) for a reason – to protect the vulnerable resource so that all New Zealanders can still put this kaimoana on their dinner table, “ says MPI Regional Manager Fisheries Compliance, Howard Reid.

After gaining approval, the men set off on Mr Searle’s commercial fishing vessel, Tempest to fish recreationally in the d’Urville Island area of Marlborough Sounds in late April 2021.

Fishery officers on sea patrol caught up with the Tempest on 28 April near the entrance of Port Hardy, d’Urville Island. They found 21 fresh blue cod in a fish bin – despite being told there were 16, along with four blue cod fillets.

Mr Searle told Fishery Officers there had been four people aboard the boat fishing – a story Mr Christian backed up at the time. MPI was provided names of the other two men.

“The story these men fabricated for our Fishery Officers during our inquiries wasted a significant amount of our time. We searched the area to locate the other fishers at sea and then continued enquiries after returning to shore, only to find out they were never aboard the boat.

Mr Searle said he lied as he was panicked because of the number of blue cod on board and his fishing partner went along with the story. The rules are there for a reason – to protect the resources so they’ll be sustainable into the future. When we find evidence of deliberate dishonest behaviour – we will prosecute.

If you’re unsure of the fishing rules the best way to find out is to download the free MPI NZ Fishing Rules App . It will ensure you have access to up-to-date rules and daily catch limits. It also means you won’t have to tell creative stories when Fishery Officers ask to inspect and explain your catch,” says Howard Reid.

The fishing vessel Tempest was forfeited to the Crown and Mr Searle will have to pay a $3000 redemption fee to have it returned.

MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).

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