Independent review of prosecution decisions

In May 2016, Ministry for Primary Industries Director-General Martyn Dunne commissioned Queen’s Counsel and former Solicitor General Michael Heron to carry out an independent review of 3 fisheries compliance operations (undertaken by the former Ministry of Fisheries and MPI) and associated prosecution decisions.


Report released

On 16 September 2016, MPI publically released the review report.

The review examined Operations Achilles, Hippocamp and Overdue, and prosecution decisions made in each case.

Our response

MPI accepts all of the findings contained in the Heron Report and has taken – or is putting in place – measures to address matters raised by the review. We also have a substantial body of work underway to address the issue of illegal discarding by commercial fishers.

Achilles video footage

There has been considerable public interest in the video footage recorded as part of the Operation Achilles investigation. MPI has released around 15 hours of video showing systematic discarding of fish and the capture of 2 Hector's dolphins. The identities of the individuals in the footage has been protected.

The footage shows the capture of 2 Hector's dolphins. The first capture was correctly logged in the Department of Conservation's Hector's and Māui dolphin incident database – as is legally required. The second capture was not. It was logged on 16 September 2016.

Fifteen videos are available. They have been organised by vessel number and the type of activity identified in the video – fish discarding, Hector's dolphin capture and retention of sport-fish.

The fishing vessels operated 2 cameras – 1 on the stern and 1 on the cabin. Where 2 cameras were operating, the video has been placed side by side to make viewing easier.

MPI has taken the decision to release only a portion of the 1,100 hours of footage captured because of the time required to anonymise the footage (pixelating faces and other measures to protect privacy) and formatting it for the Internet. Releasing the entire 1,100 hours would have required several thousand hours of work.

Document release

A selection of the documents provided to the independent reviewer are being proactively released to support the report. Legal privilege has been waived on two individual reports (the investigation reports for Achilles and Overdue).

Information has been redacted to protect the privacy of individuals, legal privilege and to remove material not related to the review. For convenience redacted sections are marked with relevant sections of the Official Information Act.

Document set 1: Operation Achilles

Operation Achilles arose from the receipt of footage from a 2012 pilot trial placing electronic monitoring cameras on fishing boats to assess their use in recording interactions with protected species. The footage was found to show discarding of fish and capture of dolphins.

The relevant material being made available includes:

Document set 2: Operation Hippocamp

Operation Hippocamp was initiated in 2012 to gather information on catch mix and fish size in the South Eastern trawl and set net fishery. Operation Hippocamp was undertaken to evaluate the level of compliance in that fishery, to identify any non-compliance and determine how that might best be addressed.

The relevant material being made available includes:

Document set 3: Operation Overdue

Operation Overdue was initiated in 2009 and related to discrepancies between the declared and measured weights of containers of fish. The differences in weight had the potential for fish to not be accounted against quota.

The relevant material being made available includes:

Document set 4: Policies and guidelines

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