Date of text
Court name
District Court of Samoa
Reference number
[2019] WSDC 9 - D3492/16, D3493/16
Judge Fepuleai Ameperosa
Judge Roma

The accused is the owner of the Treasure Garden Restaurants at Fugalei.

After receipt of a complaint, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Maritime Unit of the Ministry of Police conducted a search of the Accused’s premises at Fugalei where they discovered and seized large quantities of sea cucumbers. The accused was charged with operating a fish processing plant for a sea cucumber fishery for export purposes without approval and operating a fish processing plant without a licence contrary to section 10B and 10C of the Fisheries Act 1988.

In his defence, the Accused argued that (i) the information disclosed no offence as there was ambiguity in the wording of the charges. Firstly that despite the reference to the words “holothurian” and “echinoderm” in the definition of fish, sea cucumber was not included.  Given the wide variety of sea cucumber species it was imperative that the correct prohibited aquatic animal be stated.  Further, the Accused argued that the Information stated the words “fish processing plant”, whereas the Act made reference to a “fish processing establishment”; (ii) That the Prosecution had charged the wrong Defendant as the Company should have been charged instead of the Accused and (iii) That the sea cucumbers were for use in his restaurant meals and there was no evidence to prove that he was exporting the sea cucumbers.

The Court found the Accused Guilty and held that (i) sea cucumbers ( fugafuga) is a general term used to refer to about 300 different species found in the Pacific and that the words “holothurian” (sea cucumber) or other echinoderm ordinarily includes sea cucumbers; (ii) the particulars in the words used in the information so far as possible refer to and use the words of the enactment and fairly informed the accused of the substance of the offence; (iii) that the accused was the owner of the restaurant and was the proper defendant in the case; and (iv) given the large quantities of sea cucumber seized, the processing involved including the packaging, the only reasonable inference the court could draw is that the sea cucumbers were for export purposes. 

As the accused had absconded overseas, a warrant of arrest was issued with the accused is to remain in custody and be brought before the Court to schedule a sentencing date.