Kaikoura fishermen sentenced on rock lobster charges
26 November 2004
Two Kaikoura amateur fishermen were sentenced in the Kaikoura court today, in a sequel to a Ministry of Fisheries investigation run in late 2002.
Graeme Donald Peters (59), and Michael Fabian Whatley (44) were sentenced on various charges including possessing excess rock lobster taken illegally, possessing excess rock lobster over the daily entitlement and, in the case of Whatley only, obstructing a Fishery Officer. A third person, also charged in relation to these matters, had sentencing put off until early December in the Christchurch District Court.
Peters was sentenced to 200 hours community service and Whatley to 180 hours community service.
The initial investigation targeted amateur rock lobster fishermen operating in a commercial manner, "double dipping" - taking their full amateur entitlements twice a day - and introducing amateur caught fish into commercial outlets.
The men were regularly using 13 rock lobster pots to commit the offences. All these pots were seized as a result, together with a truck, two vessels and over 110 rock lobster. The property was ordered forfeit to the Crown at sentencing.
As a follow up to this exercise, the Ministry lifted and checked every accessible amateur rock lobster pot in the immediate Kaikoura area. Around 10 per cent were seized, not including those related to the convicted men, with 26 pots out of the 250 inspected found to be illegal under fisheries legislation.
Fisheries Officers found a number of fishermen using excessive numbers of pots including one unrelated "amateur" fisher who had 29 pots set.
Based on this case and the unrelated pot seizures, the Ministry advocated that pot limit numbers were set in legislation. This was successful and as at 1 October 2004, it is illegal for fishermen to use or possess more than three pots (individually) or six pots where there are two or more people on a boat (six pots being the maximum).
District Compliance Manager John Slaughter said that he was pleased with the result in court today. "If we are serious about the long-term sustainability of our fisheries it is important for people to play by the rules. Effective deterrents are important to reinforce the seriousness nature of breaking fisheries law and in this case the court has recognised this".
Mr Slaughter said the Ministry is serious about enforcing new rock lobster pot limits in the future pointing to the example of a recent Kaikoura pot inspection exercise where 38 pots were found to be illegally set and seized as a result.
It is important that amateur rock lobster fishermen are aware of the new pot limit restrictions as well as general restrictions relating to setting pots. Any queries can be directed to the local Ministry of Fisheries office.