Effective deterrent improves compliance
3 January 2008
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton today congratulated fishery officers on their dedicated efforts which have provided a real deterrent to fishers breaking the rules.
Every year fishery officers carry out around 20,000 recreational fisher inspections, and inspect around 1,200 commercial fishers as well as licensed fish receivers and commercial dealers in fish.
In the past financial year, $4,628,000 worth of commercial and recreational boats and $113,150 worth of vehicles, as well as other fishing gear was seized by Fishery Officers, from greedy recreational fishers, organised fish thieves and from commercial fishers caught breaking the law.
“This is a huge amount of hard work from dedicated fishery officers, honorary fishery officers and inspectors and is a clear warning to potential rule breakers,” said Jim Anderton.
“The deterrent effect that compliance officers are having is reflected in a substantial decrease in the number of infringement notices that fishery officers have had to hand out over the past five years. The number of prosecutions for more serious offending is also dropping.”
He said education was also having an impact. Fishery officers are visiting schools, community groups and boat shows and talking about the importance of sticking to the rules. People are seeing the great work our officers are doing on TV through the popular Coastwatch programme. This has all resulted in increased support for officers and increased levels of voluntary compliance.
In 2005 the Ministry of Fisheries compliance unit was restructured to create separate surveillance and investigation units.
“A lot of money and effort has been invested in assessing risks and gathering intelligence to target resources where they will have the greatest effect.”
Poaching continues to be one of the Ministry of Fisheries’ biggest targets, Jim Anderton said.
“Organised gangs stealing paua and crayfish are of particular concern. These species are very accessible to the public, you don’t even need a boat to catch them and they fetch high prices on the black market.”
The Government’s aim was to completely disrupt the entire black market supply and distribution chain, he said.
“There will be no let up in the pressure on these fish thieves; the Government is determined to stamp them out. When we catch up with them they can expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and to lose their fishing gear and any boat or vehicle they use in their offending.”
As part of the restructuring, volunteer honorary fishery officers (HFOs) were reorganised. Their numbers were reduced so that resources could be used to greatest effect with a team of HFOs who were able to spend a significant amount of time on the job. The HFOs have received increased levels of training and support and upgraded operating procedures to enable them to be highly effective in their jobs.
“I would like to thank our HFOs for their dedication and hard work; they give up their time without pay to help safeguard our fisheries for future generations.
Our HFOs and Fishery Officers now work in pairs with another HFO or Fishery Officer so that there is always a colleague there to support them, he said.
“The last thing we want is for one of our staff or volunteers to have an accident or be assaulted by a fish thief while on duty and for them not to have someone there to back them up.”
Jim Anderton said people should know that Fishery Officers and HFOs will be on duty throughout the New Year holiday period.
“They will be talking to fishers and making sure they know the rules. They will also be conducting inspections of catch and, if necessary, may give infringement notices to those who have broken the rules.”
He said people going out fishing over the holiday period should:
- Report fish thieves by calling 0800 4 POACHER. They are stealing from you and from future generations.
- Know the rules before you go, consult the area regulations for the location where you will be fishing.
- Only take what you need, fish for a feed and not to fill the freezer. Don’t exceed the bag limits.
- Stick to the minimum size limits, they are carefully set to make sure there will be enough fish left for the future. Taking small fish is removing the mothers and babies before they have had a chance to spawn.