Snapper poachers lose boat, face big fines
February 19 2009
Three fishers who hid 85 snapper under the floor of their 4.3m (14ft) trailer boat have had their boat seized and will face serious charges under the Fisheries Act and Regulations. If convicted, they could face fines of up to $250,000 and have their boat and all fishing equipment permanently forfeited to the Crown.
The three were caught during a routine inspection of fishers, at Kawakawa Bay, in the Firth of Thames, last Sunday, February 15.
The three, together with a 13-year-old youth, arrived at the Kawakawa Bay ramp in their boat at about 4pm. Fishery officers, supported by honorary fishery officers, approached the boat and were shown a chilly bin containing 36 legal-sized snapper. As fishers on the east coast of the Auckland region are each entitled to 9 snapper per day, this was within their legal daily limit.
However, closer inspection of the boat by the officers uncovered a hidden flap in the floorboards at the rear of the vessel. This flap was concealed underneath the boat’s petrol tank.
Fishery officers found a substantial number of fish hidden under these floorboards and then proceeded to remove the rest of the boat’s floor, uncovering another hidden flap at the front of the vessel.
This, like the flap at the rear of the boat, gave access to the underfloor area of the vessel usually filled with buoyancy material. This is a vital safety feature in most vessels and helps keep the boat afloat if swamped.
Fishery officers found that almost all of the boat’s buoyancy material had been removed and the underfloor area was instead filled with snapper. The officers found 85 hidden snapper, meaning the four fishers had taken a total of 121 snapper, or the equivalent of 13 fishers’ legal daily limit.
Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager Ian Bright says it is always disappointing when people deliberately set out to break the law, especially when they endanger their own and other people’s lives to do so.
“These fishers knew exactly what they were doing. They separated out their legal maximum to show the officers and then hid the rest. What’s more, they had cold-heartedly removed the safety foam from their boat and then headed to sea with a young teenager on board.
“This is not only greed of the worst kind, it is the sort of situation that has ‘tragedy’ written all over it.”
Mr Bright says the Ministry of Fisheries has no tolerance for those who deliberately set out to break the law by hiding fish from fishery officers or Honorary Fishery Officers.
“Fishers who act in this way can expect to have their vessels or vehicles seized and be prosecuted” he says.”
Mr Bright also praised the work of the HFOs who had helped uncover the illegal fish.
“These are unpaid volunteers who do an incredible job of helping to protect our fisheries, often in very difficult situations.”
Mr Bright urged anyone seeing any illegal fishing activity to support the work of these HFOs and the Ministry by ringing their popular 0800 4 Poacher number (0800 4 76224).