MILESTONE FINE AWARDED AGAINST RECREATIONAL FISHER CONVICTED FOR ILLEGAL ROCK LOBSTER
2 April 2004
Gisborne man Tame Matekairoa WAIKARI was today sentenced in relation to the taking of more than three times the prescribed daily limit of rock lobster and possession of undersize rock lobster.
At the Gisborne District Court, Judge Adeane fined Mr WAIKARI a total of $15,000 for the taking and possession of 121 rock lobster, of which 112 were undersize. The maximum penalty for each offence is $20,000. Judge Adeane forfeited the fishing vessel used in the offending, which the Ministry estimates has a value of between $5 - 7000.
In sentencing Mr Waikari, Judge Adeane stated that an invalid customary permit produced by Mr Waikari was not a mitigating factor. (The permit produced at the hearing was ruled invalid.)
Judge Adeane stated this was a watershed case, and stressed that fishing of this nature undermined the Quota Management System, and commercial fishers' interests in the rock lobster fishery.
In sentencing, Mr Waikari's previous fisheries convictions were also taken into account.
In written submissions to the Court, Mr Waikari's defence solicitor, Mr Charl Hirshfeld, asked the Court to take into account Mr Waikari's cultural background as a Maori who was taught customary fishing by his father.
Ministry of Fisheries prosecutor, Morgan Dunn, said this type of offending was an area of considerable public interest and importance, and as such, a deterrent penalty was sought.
Napier District Compliance Manager, Ray McKay, said the decision sent a very clear message to fishers, that when exercising customary fishing rights, pursuant to Regulation 27, there was a requirement ensure that written authorisations met the new conditions for taking fish for hui and tangi.
"The new conditions, which came into effect in April 2003, clearly set out the detail required for a legitimate customary authorisation or permit. The authorisation was also required to be issued by an authorised representative of a Marae Committee, Maori Committee, Runanga or Trust Board that represents the tangata whenua - that is, iwi or hapu who hold manawhenua over the area from which the fish were taken.
"If fishers are unsure of the validity of their permits, they only need to contact a Fishery Officer prior to going fishing. This simple check could ultimately end up saving them $1000 in fines, and the possible loss of their vessel."
Gisborne Team Leader Martin Williams said that the fine imposed in this case was the highest he could recall for any fisheries offending in Gisborne in his 15 years as a Fishery Officer.