Ministry for Primary Industries v Sealord Group Ltd [2020] NZDC 26659

Published 09 July 2021

Forfeiture — whether retention of asset would be manifestly unjust — fishing boat — Fisheries Act 1996, ss 256 & 264. The defendant fishing company had previously been convicted of fishing in a protected area, and as part of the sentence had had to forfeit its boat. The current proceedings were to determine whether the prosecutor Ministry could completely retain the boat. The Ministry agreed that complete retention would be "manifestly unjust", so the Court was left to determine the redemption that the defendant would have to pay to get the boat back. The Fisheries Act required the Court to determine the value of the boat, the defendant's interest in the property and the costs to the Ministry of bringing the prosecution. The boat had been valued at roughly $24 million, and the Court accepted that the defendant was the owner. The Ministry had spent $36,916.63 on the prosecution. The Court then examined a series of factors mandated by the Fisheries Act, including the effects of the offending on the environment and on other fishers, and the prevalence of the offending. The Court found that it was appropriate to order the return of the boat for the payment of a sum of money. The Court calculated the sum due by using a scale based on the value of the boat, arriving at a total of $66,000 as the amount that the defendant would need to pay the Ministry to get its boat returned. Judgment Date: 18 December 2020.