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Operation Webb: Mathematician's dream and prosecutor's nightmare

Seminar presented by Dr Graeme Bremner, 29 November 2012, SARDI Aquatic Sciences, Adelaide

Operation Webb was the biggest fisheries case ever pursued in NZ. It involved area misreporting on a large scale by a factory trawler fishing in the southern ocean. As part of the investigation the NZ Ministry of Fisheries explored several novel techniques for analysing observer and catch reporting data. The case ended in a guilty plea. It is probably fortunate that the results did not have to be presented in court since the reception of probabilistic evidence is often frosty. However, similar approaches hold great promise for the automated detection of area misreporting by deep sea trawlers in future.

Area misreporting cases typically involve trace evidence in one form or another. Operation Webb was unusual in that the disputed product was already out of reach, but Graeme will also discuss the types of trace evidence already used in other area misreporting cases.

Dr Graeme Bremner is a fisheries forensic scientist based in Dunedin and working part time for the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries. He has been working in the fisheries forensics area since 1996. He is a member of the FAO Fisheries Forensics Working Group and is a consultant on the Commonwealth Technical Experts Roster.