In what's believed to be a first in New Zealand, a commercial company has been banned from fishing.
The company run by the Hawke's Bay D'Esposito family has copped a three-year ban and an $80,000 fine after failing to report more than 200 kilograms of crayfish.
The Nimrod 1 is a Napier crayfishing vessel now implicated in fraud.
The crew didn't know, but the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) began watching them, and the crayfish they were catching for the Hawkes Bay Seafood's Group, back in September 2014.
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"We have trained staff that work in the undercover programme," said MPI Manager of Compliance and Investigations Gary Orr.
"We are the only other government agency that operates a programme like that, apart from the police."
On 36 fishing trips, crayfish were not reported. It added up to 204 kilograms in total. Undercover officers were then used to purchase the black market crays.
Nino and Joe D'Esposito's company Esplanade No 3 has now been prohibited from fishing.
"It is highly unusual for a commercial fishing company to be banned from fishing, and I think that sends a really powerful message," Orr told Newshub.
Forest and Bird's Geoff Keey says on-board cameras are needed.
"It's time for inshore fishing companies to accept digital monitoring. We need to have confidence that they're not breaking the law."
The D'Espositos' history of offending
- In 1990, 700 tonnes of Orange Roughy was misreported in the biggest fishing fraud ever.
- in 2009, 900 kilograms of Moki was falsely reported as a lesser value species.
- In 2013, the company was convicted of failing to complete catch landing returns.
- In February 2019, the D'Espositos were fined more than $1 million for under-reporting 27 tonnes of Bluenose.
MPI says they won't tolerate it.
However, apart from reputational damage, the ban's unlikely to impact the D'Espositos.
They still own vessels, but have sold their business to local iwi Ngati Kahungunu, who rebranded it.
Newshub asked the iwi about its on-going relationship with the D'Esposito's, and if it had any concerns. It didn't respond.