12 Jan 2013

US court fines Sanford for pollution

3:06 pm on 12 January 2013

A United States court has ordered New Zealand fishing company Sanford Ltd to pay more than $US2 million for polluting waters around American Samoa.

Sanford was convicted in August of dumping oil waste from tuna fishing ship San Nikunau and falsifying records.

The US District Court in Washington DC fined the company $US1.9 million and ordered it to pay a community service payment of $US500,000.

The ship's chief engineer, James Pogue, has been sentenced to one month in prison, five months home detention and 18 months probation, and was ordered to pay a $US6000 fine.

He was convicted in August of falsifying records and failing to maintain an accurate oil record book as required by US anti-pollution law.

Sanford's ships have also been banned from entering US ports for three years until the company's environmental policies are audited.

The company says it understands and respects the sentence and has voluntarily upgraded its environmental standards.

Managing director Eric Barratt said the new standards make crews more accountable for abiding by marine pollution law.

"We want increased documentation to show that they are doing what they said they are doing, we want accountability from more of the crews. In this case there were crews who were not operating the systems in the way that we intended."

Mr Barratt said the firm plans to have the required audit of environmental policies carried out in February. The company has stopped operating in US waters for the moment, because it can't get insurance to fish there.

A US Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General, Ignacia Moreno, said the sentence shows companies that deliberately break pollution laws and lie to the Coast Guard about their activities will be held fully accountable.

The commander of the US Coast Guard in Honolulu, Captain Joanna Nunan, said some of the world's most pristine marine ecosystems are located in the South Pacific and it is important anti-pollution regulations are respected even in remote areas.