Hawke's Bay fishing family fined nearly $1.5m for misreporting catch

A prominent Hawke's Bay fishing family has been fined more than a million dollars for the under-reporting and sale of bluenose fish.

It marks the end of a long and expensive fisheries investigation which has dragged through the courts for two years.

Investigation footage shows the factories of Hawkes Bay Seafoods in Napier. It was taken five years ago - at the beginning of one of the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI's) biggest-ever investigations, which concluded on Monday.

Judge Bill Hastings has presided over the marathon court case. On Monday, he issued a fine of just under $1.5 million to three fishing companies - including Hawkes Bay Seafoods, its directors Joe and Nino D'Esposito, and general manager Marcus D'Esposito - for misreporting of catch and then selling it.

"Misreporters obtain a commercial advantage over those who report correctly," Judge Hastings said in court.

Their company sold 27 tonnes of bluenose - worth a quarter of a million dollars.

Today the six defendants will pay much more than that - along with the fine they'll pay another $400,000 to recover the four vessels MPI seized in the investigation.

The D'Espositos were not required to appear in court today and Newshub was unable to reach their lawyer.

He has previously said the offending was of a "regulatory nature" and labelled the $2.5 million MPI investigation a "waste of taxpayer money".

However MPI's fisheries compliance national manager disagrees.

"[We] held them to account and we want to send that message to the industry that we do watch this and we are not afraid to prosecute where we need to," says Steve Ham.

Joe and Nino D'espositos have previous convictions for misreporting catch. Mr Ham says they cannot stop them fishing but wonders if this fine might do that.

"There is a commercial decision they need to make, whether they still want to be in the industry," he says.

If they do keep fishing, the judge has one message for them.

"To please not be offended when I say I never want to see them in court again."


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