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Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

A fishing company has been found guilty of illegally operating in a restricted area in a reserved decision at the Nelson District Court.

Amaltal Fishing Co Limited, owned by Talley’s Group, pleaded not guilty to charges related to fishing in a marine reserve. 

The hearing took place in August, and Judge Rielly’s reserved decision has now been released. The skipper of the Amaltal Mariner pleaded guilty and was sentenced and fined earlier this year.

Amaltal Fishing Co Ltd had argued that it was not liable for the master’s offending, as he was employed by a different company within the Talley’s group. 

However, Judge Rielly held that the actions of the skipper of a vessel can and should be attributed to the vessel’s operator. 

Judge Rielly said, “In the context of increasingly complicated limited liability company structures, it is important that the integrity of the Marine Reserves Act is maintained. It would be an unfortunate outcome at law if the consequences intended by parliament could be evaded based on advanced company structures.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries, which investigated the offending and took the prosecution, said the decision sends a strong message to companies that break the rules.

“The Hikurangi Marine Reserve, off the coast of Kaikōura, encompasses the Kaikōura Canyon, reputedly the most biologically rich ocean habitat known in the world at depths of below 500 metres. All marine life and habitats within it are totally protected,” said MPI’s manager fisheries compliance, Steve Ham.

“The vessel, called the Amaltal Mariner, was bottom trawling for orange roughy when it entered the marine reserve.

“MPI expects fishing companies and skippers to know the rules before they go out and we expect them to comply with them. A marine reserve is a fully protected area where you’re not allowed to fish.

“We can track the position of fishing vessels in real-time using GPS technology so we were alerted when the vessel entered the marine reserve.

“On Sunday 17 March 2019, at approximately 11.42am, the Amaltal Mariner started a bottom trawl 900 metres inside the Hikurangi Marine Reserve. The net was towed into the reserve where it travelled along the seafloor for 10 to 12 minutes, covering a distance of between 1,100m and 1,400m. The trawl net was retrieved at 12.04pm.

“The skipper had charts onboard that show the Hikurangi Marine Reserve but it was not marked on the vessel’s electronic plotter.”

Mr Ham encourages fishing industry operators and non-commercial fishers to report any suspected illegal activity through the ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).

Amaltal Fishing Co Ltd will be sentenced on a date to be set by the court.


Marine reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) under the Marine Reserves Act 1971.

The purpose of marine reserves is to preserve for the scientific study of marine life, areas of New Zealand that contain underwater scenery, natural features, or marine life, of such distinctive quality, or so typical, or beautiful, or unique, that their continued preservation is in the national interest.

There are currently 44 marine reserves in New Zealand. The status of marine reserve is the strongest legal protection available to the marine environment and all forms of fishing are prohibited.

The Kaikōura (Te Tai ō Marokura) Marine Management Act 2014 established the Hikurangi Marine Reserve, which covers an area of approximately 10,416 hectares, extending 23.4 km offshore and includes 1.95 km of shoreline near Goose Bay, south of the Kaikōura township.