Poaching couples receive 1000 hours community service; lose cars, boat
22 June, 2007
Two South Auckland couples that illegally caught large amounts of grey mullet and then sold them in the streets around their homes were sentenced to more than 1000 hours community service when they appeared in the Manukau District Court yesterday. Their two vehicles, boat, fishing nets and a fridge/freezer have also been forfeited to the Crown.
Kolani Peni, a 36-year-old unemployed man from Papatoetoe; his wife, Anna Hana Peni Seiuli, a 29-year-old housewife; Tootoo Vaitoetau Sauleone, a 33-year-old unemployed Mangere man and his partner, 31-year-old Viena Meafou had pleaded guilty to a variety of offences under the Fisheries Act.
The court heard that, between November 2005 and February 2006, Peni and Sauleone would set nets for grey mullet in the Port Waikato area using two 80-metre long fishing nets (the maximum legal length for a recreational net is 60 metres). They would do this on average two-three times per week. They would then return to their South Auckland homes where the catch would be divided.
They, their partners and children would then drive slowly along neighbouring streets offering the fish for sale. When interviewed, the two couples admitted they often earned up to $1000 a week in this way.
Neither man had a licence to fish commercially nor was their boat a registered fishing vessel. None of the four was licensed to sell fish.
In sentencing the four, Judge Harvey said there was no question the two couples were over-fishing to feed their families. Rather, he said, this was a clear case of serious blackmarket activity or theft and that could not be tolerated.
He sentenced Peni to 300 hours community work on the basis that he was involved in all parts of the operation.
Sauleone received 280 hours community work on the basis that he was the next most involved in the operation and, although the fish was not stored at his house, his vehicle was sometimes used to tow the vessel to and from Port Waikato.
Seiuli was sentenced to 250 hours community work on the basis that her offending was integral to the operation. She was directly involved in the selling part of operation and the illegally caught fish was also often stored in a chest freezer at her Papatoetoe home prior to sale.
Meafou was ordered to complete 200 hours community work.
Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager Ian Bright said the sentences sent a clear message that illegally catching and selling fish would not be tolerated.
“The Quota Management System (QMS) exists to ensure commercial fish stocks are managed in a controlled and sustainable way. Members of the public are able to fish recreationally for a wide variety of different fish and shellfish species as long as they observe the size and bag limits. They cannot, however, under any circumstances, sell fish, either publicly or privately.
“Cases like this, where recreational fishers catch far more than their legal limit and then systematically sell that fish, strike right at the heart of both commercial and recreational fisheries law.
“This case sends a strong signal that those who ignore these rules do so at their peril. When they are caught, they will be prosecuted and, as this case shows, they can expect to be dealt with severely by the courts.”