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Fishers fined over dangerous use of a vessel

The incident happened on March 13, 2019. File photo.

A labourer and fisherman have been fined more than $4000, and their vessel forfeited, for their part in operating a vessel in a manner which caused unnecessary danger to others and for obstructing a Fishery Officer from searching their vessel for illegal catch.

Patrick Keefe, 50, and Selwyn Crowley, 65, both pleaded guilty to two charges under the Fisheries Act 1996. Mr Keefe also pleaded guilty to one charge under the Maritime Transport Act 1994.

They were sentenced on Wednesday in the Hastings District Court.

Due to his personal circumstances, Keefe’s fine of $4400 was converted to 180 hours of community service.

“We work collaboratively with agencies like MPI to protect New Zealand's fisheries and to keep our waters safe,” says Michael-Paul Abbott, Maritime NZ’s Compliance Manager – Central Region.

The charges related to an incident on March 13, 2019, when Fishery Officers were conducting a vessel patrol near Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay.

Keefe was the Master of a 5.5m, aluminium pontoon vessel powered by a single motor. Crowley was on-board the vessel.

A Fishery Officer patrolling from a clearly marked fisheries vessel repeatedly gestured and shouted “Stop, Fisheries, Stop!” to the men. Keefe acknowledged the Fishery Officers by waving.

The boat sped away through a gap in a reef, after narrowly avoiding a collision with the fisheries vessel, in an effort to evade Fishery Officers. The vessel’s passenger, Crowley, was seen dumping pāua overboard, says a statement from Maritime New Zealand.

Keefe then turned the boat towards the Fishery Officers’ vessel at speed, narrowly missing them by 3m.

When Keefe had stopped the vessel, Keefe produced a customary authorisation.

Later, when the vessel’s catch was inspected, Fishery Officers located 151 pāua, of which 34 measured less than the stipulated minimum size. This was in breach of the conditions on the customary authorisation.

People who obstruct MPI Fishery Officers or MNZ Maritime Officers, or put them in danger, should expect that this will result in prosecution.

“Our public officials lead and support the maritime community to take responsibility for ensuring our seas are safe, secure and clean, on behalf of all New Zealanders.

“It is important we treat our officials with respect. The majority of the public understand this and are helpful and cooperative,” says Mr Abbott.

-Information from Maritime New Zealand.

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