Boats and vehicles seized in Wellington paua busts
17 December 2007
One hundred and seventy kilograms of paua, along with four vessels, four 4X4 vehicles and a flat deck truck, have been seized in the Wellington region as a result of pre Christmas patrols by fishery officers. The four 4x4 vehicles, valued at a total of $25,000 had specially fitted tyres so that they could traverse difficult coastlines to get to fishing grounds.
Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager, Ross Thurston, says that four 4X4 vehicles were seized today after an operation targeting paua divers on a remote area of the South Coast. All offenders caught may be facing serious Fishery Act charges.
Earlier fishery officers watched a man dive in the Wellington Harbour and shuck 27 kilos of paua which he then carried on his vessel to another area. After secreting the paua the same diver drove his vehicle to that area to recover the paua. He was intercepted by fishery officers.
Following that a second unrelated man was seen by a fisheries patrol to dive and shuck 20 kilos of paua. He too took the paua to another location to be picked up by the diver’s associate. A fisheries patrol intercepted that haul.
Late in November, two further vessels and a flat deck truck were seized after fishery officers saw divers shucking paua in the Wellington Harbour. 115 kgs of paua was seized as a result of MFish intervention.
People involved in the black market paua trade face serious Fishery Act charges and face up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 fines if convicted.
“These catches have been significant in that while the incidents appear unrelated a dent has been made in the illegal take of paua from our coastline.
“A worrying aspect is the poor state of the vessels and it is dumb for divers to put their lives at risk to steal paua.”
The divers with the four 4x4 vehicles were just plain greedy while the other people caught must be supplying the black market simply because of the quantities they were caught with Mr Thurston says.
“The taking of excess numbers and undersize will affect the ability to take seafood both for this and future generations. If people have information or suspect illegal fishing anywhere, they should ring the MFish poacher line 0800 4POACHER (0800 476 224).”