Fishing company admits it could be to blame for 'hundreds' of dead snapper washing up north of Auckland

This story has been modified to remove footage of the fishing vessel, Kawatea. This vessel was not linked in any way to the incident or to MPI's investigations into this incident.

A major fishing company says it could be to blame for hundreds of dead snapper washing up on beaches north of Auckland.

Moana New Zealand says one of its contract vessels could be responsible, with the company saying it was accidental, not deliberate.

Fisheries New Zealand has called the incident "disappointing" and wasteful.

Residents at Omaha Beach started noticing dead snapper on the beach on Thursday, with decaying fish now left to the sun and seagulls.

Awatere Fishing Club organiser Matt Fairbrother said he saw "hundreds" of fish at Anchor Bay.

"Just all over the bay, floating dead and washed up on the beach."

He said it's not the first time he's witnessed it.

"I've seen it happen four or five times all over the Gulf. Even in the Rangi channel," he said.

  • Do you have more information? Get in touch with Michael Morrah in confidence by emailing him at

The acting director of compliance at Fisheries New Zealand, Andre Espinoza, told Newshub it's a "real waste".

"We're trying to look after the sustainable fishery here in the Hauraki Gulf, so it is of great concern."

MPI can track commercial vessels in real-time. And late this afternoon, Moana New Zealand acknowledged it could be to blame, saying one of its contract vessels lost power while at sea.

"The skipper and his crew had to haul the fish in without winch assistance, at times using a gaff to haul the gear. They split the bag several times to lift the fish over in several loads."

The resulting split saw some fish fall back in the water.

The company said the skipper was "unaware of the amount of loss" as he was busy below deck restoring power.

Moana New Zealand would not clarify when asked by Newshub whether the crew on its contract vessel notified MPI of the fish it lost when it happened, or if they got in touch after video of dead fish started circulating on social media.

One of the washed-up fish.
One of the washed-up fish. Photo credit: Newshub

Fisheries New Zealand says two vessels were in the area. Both were due to have cameras installed as part of the Ministry's rollout.

However, the rollout is now facing uncertainty with Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones signalling a review.

The Minister told Newshub he's asked officials to look at the cameras on boats programme "for a range of reasons" and is awaiting advice.

Espinoza said camera footage would aid their inquiries in incidents like this.

"Yes, absolutely it would be useful in this scenario."

Locals Newshub spoke to say they're disappointed the Minister is meddling with the camera on boats programme, after it's already suffered so many setbacks.

"He should just wake up a bit, and do some research about it," said Fairbrother.

"No harm, no foul. If you've got nothing to hide, why not have them on," another local told Newshub.

MPI said it'll be interviewing the skipper and crew from two vessels before deciding what action - if any - it'll take.