Fishing company banned after hauling endangered tuna in Pacific

A Chinese fishing company has been banned from all deep-sea fishing after it was busted with a huge illegal haul of critically endangered Southern Bluefin tuna.

New Zealand fisheries officers and NZ Defence Force personnel made the find during an operation halfway to Fiji.

After boarding the rusty Chinese trawler, a team of officers set their sights on the freezer, where they discovered a huge illegal stash of the tuna.

The vessel wasn't licenced to fish in the area, nor was it allowed to take Southern Bluefin.

"This was significant offending," Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) manager of compliance investigations Gary Orr says "it involved over a hundred tonne of Southern Bluefin tuna, and that was significant in terms of the stock impact."

The Chinese skipper tried to claim the fish were Bigeye tuna, a species that is not as valuable, but the NZ Navy took DNA samples which proved otherwise.

"[It was a] disappointment more than anything because of the scale of the offending," Mr Orr says.

Forest and Bird marine advocate Katrina Goddard says the species is already at "really high risk".

"We've fished the population down to about 10 percent of the original biomass."

The vessel was fined $825,000 for misreporting and fishing without a licence, but the most significant penalty came later.

A banning order was put in place for all their vessels and their company deregistered, stopping them from fishing in the high seas.

World Wide Fund for Nature spokesperson Bubba Cook says he applauds the efforts of the governments of New Zealand and China.

"It is particularly important to target IUU of Bluefin tuna because they have been heavily overfished and need urgent attention to have any chance of recovery."

The tuna fishery plays an important role in the Pacific. It's the biggest revenue earner for places like Tu'valu.

MPI says it'll be doing more jobs like this alongside the Navy in the coming months.


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