East coast checkpoints net poachers
26 March 2008
Fishery officers intercepted hundreds of illegal paua and dozens of undersize rock lobster returning from the East Coast at a checkpoint northeast of Opotiki on Easter weekend.
Fishery officers and members of the Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) undertook a series of check points and vehicle stops during Easter weekend.
Ministry of Fisheries East Coast compliance manager Neville Buckley said a disappointingly high number of vehicles stopped near Opotiki had fishers that had flouted the recreational fishing regulations.
Six vehicles were found to have significant quantities of illegal fish with the worst being a quantity of well over 100 undersize paua. Three of the six were found to have 50-60 undersize paua. A significant number of vehicles were found in possession of either undersize paua and rock lobster or both.
Mr Buckley said a total of 311 undersize paua, 49 undersize rock lobsters and five illegal snapper were found. One vehicle, one boat and two sets of dive gear were also seized.
The check points at Gisborne revealed a better compliance rate with 22 illegal rock lobster, 48 illegal paua and one undersize kingfish found. Fishery officers are also talking to a commercial fisher as a result of a vehicle stop.
Mr Buckley said it’s annoying to see people taking such a short-sighted attitude to the region’s fisheries.
“The rules are there to protect everyone’s interests. The paua and rock lobster populations can’t take this sort of pressure forever. East Coast is famed for its kaimoana and it’s a shame to see that reputation being threatened by poaching.
“We will be putting files together in the next few days to determine exactly what action will be taken against those who were found offending.”
Sergeant Dennis Hogan of the East Coast Police CVIU team said that he was also disappointed with the compliance rate for vehicle and trailers that were inspected by his team during the check points. A number of vehicles were found not to be roadworthy and were taken off the road.
“I am really pleased with the results of the combined operation and it was not surprising that often those found with fishery offences were also found to have vehicle and trailer offences,” said Mr Hogan.
Given the success of the weekend operation Sergeant Hogan said that future joint operations would be undertaken with fishery officers from time to time.