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Fishing scam leads to $1m in fines for seafood company owner

5th October 2021 By Staff Reporter | | @foodtickernz

A seafood company owner has been fined $1.05m for a commercial scam responsible for almost $1m worth of black market pāua and crayfish from the Chatham Islands

Michael Vernon Weaver, aged 42, and his company Southen Ocean Seafoods Limited faced 19 joint charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 for the offending.

Weaver pleaded guilty to charges related to trading more than 12 tonnes of unreported seafood, valued at more than $900,000. He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court in July, but name suppression was in place until today.

Appearing before Judge Grau in July, he was sentenced to 12 months home detention and fined $525,000. His company Southen Ocean Seafoods Limited, of which Weaver is the sole director, was also fined $525,000.

More than 1.6 tonnes of his company’s crayfish quota shares valued at over $1.2m have also been forfeited to the Crown.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ investigation found that under Weaver’s management, another company, Snapper Seafoods, received unreported seafood between January 2017 and March 2018 from Chatham Islands fishers.

These fishers, Kevan Huia Clarke and Robin Andrew Page, were sentenced in 2020 for their roles in the offending.

MPI director of compliance services, Gary Orr, said Weaver was critical to the illegal operation.

“Without Mr Weaver’s company, Southen Ocean Seafoods Limited, this offending by the commercial fishers would not have been possible,” MPI director of compliance services, Gary Orr, said.

“He colluded with the fishers involved, agreeing to false amounts of fish to declare for the record.

“It should be noted that Mr Weaver deliberately misled Snapper Seafoods, the company he used to receive the illegal catch. Snapper Seafoods were not aware of the deception and were not charged.”

Orr added that Weaver’s sentencing brought to an end a long-running MPI investigation.

“Whether you’re a commercial fisher or involved in the management of landed fish product – records will be inspected. If we find evidence of illegal operations, we will hold you to account,” he said.

“The investigation unfolded after Fishery Officers found more than half a tonne of unreported pāua in Chatham Island fisher Kevan Clarke’s catch documentation.

“Further investigation found more discrepancies between reported catch and what had been reported as received by Mr Weaver and his company Southen Ocean Seafoods Ltd.”



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