MAJOR PAUA SEIZURES IN NORTHLAND
Acting on information from members of the public Fishery Officers from Kaitaia and Whangarei have made two major paua seizures in the last few days.
Again the vigilance and prompt actions by the public has lead to the apprehension of a group taking large quantities of paua from the Far North.
On January 24, Fishery Officers acting on information from a member of the public went to Taputaputa Bay in the far north.
Fishery Officers gained entry to an unattended vehicle parked at Taputaputa and upon inspection, found the vehicle to contain 121 paua of which 111 were less than the legal minimum size of 125mm.
The vehicle was "staked-out" and the occupants apprehended when they returned to their vehicle.
The group consisting of six persons including three divers were found in possession of a further 54 paua all less than the legal minimum size making it a total of 175 paua of which 165 were undersized.
The undersized paua were seized as well as the divers expensive diving equipment which are now in the custody of the Ministry of Fisheries.
The men are to face charges under the Fisheries Act and its associated legislation.
On January 29 further information was received and Fishery Officers again went to Taputaputa and again set up observations.
At about 7.20pm that evening two 12 foot aluminium boats were observed returning to Taputaputa Bay containing eight persons. These men were observed to unload what appeared to be several large sacks into their vehicles. Both vessels were loaded onto trailers being towed by two vehicles and the men drove away from the area.
Fishery Officers stopped both vehicles and vessels a short distance from the beach.
A subsequent search of the vessels and vehicles revealed a haul of 1,774 paua concealed within sacks and packs. The vast majority of these paua were well under the legal size limit of 125mm.
The daily limit for paua is 10 per person per day.
The eight men involved are being dealt with by Fishery Officers and will face serious Fisheries Act charges.
Both vehicles, both vessels and all of the diving gear used has been seized under the Fisheries Act and will be forfeited to the Crown upon conviction.
Mr David Turner, District Compliance Manager for the Ministry of Fisheries in Northland said he was aghast at the number of paua that these man had taken and he said that he had no doubts that the paua were intended for the black market - "eight men could not eat that many paua in a life time".
Mr Turner further said that these two groups had taken a total of just on 2,000 paua from one small area and of these over 95% of them were undersize. The local paua stocks would only last a matter of weeks at this level of take before they were wiped out forever. "The greed and selfishness of these men defies belief".
The Ministry of Fisheries has detected a rapid increase in the illegal take of paua from Northland waters over recent times that are obviously destined for the black market.
Just prior to Christmas 2002, Northland Fishery Officers conducted another operation at Kawerua on the West Coast just south of Hokianga Harbour. In this operation over 1000 illegal paua were seized from 9 men who now also face serious fisheries charges.
Mr Turner went on to say that paua in Northland face extinction unless this level of illegal take is stopped. Under fisheries legislation offenders face up five years imprisonment, $250,000 in fines and the forfeiture of vessels, vehicles and dive gear.
"I encourage members of the public to ring us if they are suspicious of the activities of anyone fishing or gathering shell fish, what may seem minor to the public may actually fit into something larger that we are working on. With the support of the community we can beat this problem. The community owes a debt of gratitude to the members of the public who took the time to report their suspicions in these recent cases," Mr Turner said.
District Compliance Manager
Ministry of Fisheries
Whangarei. Tel. 09-4385123