We all want to make sure that there are enough fish left in the sea for future generations, and every day, a big team of men and women work around New Zealand’s coast to help this happen.
These people are fishery officers. Some of them work full time and are paid for the work they do, and some of them, known as honorary fishery officers, work part time as volunteers.
Fishery officers make sure that all fishers understand and stick to the New Zealand fishing rules. They monitor commercial, customary, and recreational fishing and investigate illegal activities, such as people taking more fish than they’re allowed.
Fishery officers do lots of different things:
- They patrol the coast, checking what fishers have caught.
- They investigate suspicious behaviour, gathering evidence for court cases against people who have broken the rules.
- They look at how well people are sticking to the rules and if a rule needs to be changed.
- They work with tangata whenua to develop plans around managing fishing in the local fisheries.
- They educate people on the rules for fishing in New Zealand – a fishery officer might have even come to your school to explain the fishing rules!
A day on patrol with Honorary Fishery Officer Kelvin O’Conner
Honorary Fishery Officer Kelvin O’Conner’s day on patrol begins with a morning meeting with the local fishery officers’ team to plan the day. The officers use information about the wind, sea swells, and the tides to help them decide where people are most likely to be fishing and where they should be patrolling.
After the meeting, the fishery officers spread out along the coast, checking out boat ramps and as many fishing spots as they can.
Because lots of fishery officers are also keen recreational fishers, they often know where the good fishing spots are. They stop to chat with fishers, check catches, and hand out brochures that explain the correct way to measure each type of fish.
Today, Kelvin patrols Wellington’s south coast. By early afternoon, boats are starting to come back in, and divers are getting out of the water. Most people are happy to let Kelvin inspect their catches.
A snorkeller has a mixed bag of kina and paua, and it turns out that the last time Kelvin spoke to this snorkeller, he had caught undersized paua and was fined $250. This time, he is within the daily limit for both species, and the paua are all at least the minimum size of 125 millimetres.
Not everyone played by the rules though. Later on Kelvin talks to a man who has taken 47 paua (the daily limit is 10), and 41 of them are undersized. Another man has 27 tiny paua – the largest is only 40 millimetres long. A spear fisher has two undersized blue cod, and another snorkeller has an undersized rock lobster.
These fishers are given different punishments:
- The man who took 47 paua is prosecuted and has to go to court. He faces a fine of up to $20,000.
- The man who had 27 tiny paua is fined $750 ($500 for having twice the daily limit and $250 for having undersized paua).
- The spear fisher is given a $250 fine for taking undersized fish.
- The snorkeller is just given a warning. (This is her first offence, the rock lobster was only just under the minimum size, and the rest of her catch was legal.)
Your help helps!
Fishery officers couldn’t do their work well without the public’s help. The officers can’t be everywhere at once, and everyone can help to make sure that people follow the rules and leave enough fish for future generations.
If you see someone at the beach who you think could be breaking the rules, you should contact the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish). They have a special phone number that you can ring to report suspicious fishing activity: 0800 4 POACHER (0800 4 76224).