FIRST CONVICTION RESULTING FROM OPERATION PACMAN
17 May 2002
The first conviction from the Ministry of Fisheries' recent crackdown on illegal fishing, Operation Pacman, resulted from a case heard in the Opotiki District Court yesterday (16 May 2002).
John Charles WAIRUA, 38, a commercial snapper fisherman of Te Kaha, pleaded guilty to an indictable charge of knowingly engaging in commercial activity in contravention of section 233 (1) (b) of the Fisheries Act 1996.
He was fined $4000.00, forfeited his fishing vessel (valued at $35,000.00), Toyota Hilux truck and portable chiller unit and ordered to pay $500.00 solicitor's costs and $150.00 court costs.
The Ministry of Fisheries Prosecutor told the Court that an undercover Fishery Officer was deployed in the Gisborne area from August 2001 to March 2002 to assist in the Operation Pacman investigation. On 13 January 2002 he met the defendant at Te Kaha and paid $450 in cash for 112.5 kg of snapper. Snapper is a quota species and all the fish sold to the Officer was caught and sold outside the quota management system.
Judge Thomas said WAIRUA was a first offender of limited means and was entitled to credit for his guilty plea, however there was a need for a deterrence.
Operation Pacman was based on the work of the two special duty Fishery Officers who went undercover for six months to investigate the buying and selling paua and rock lobster on the black market and identifying the networks involved.
By the end of the two day Operation Pacman "termination" phase, from 12-14 March 2002, 141 Fisheries Officers working together had apprehended 85 people, seized more than 30 vehicles, nine vessels, including three commercial fishing boats and various other equipment, and a tonne of paua and 1500 (individual) rock lobster.
For further information please contact
Greg Reid, District Compliance Manager, Whangarei
Telephone 09 4385123