‘Big fat oyster’ seller cops big fat penalty
17 March 2009
A Gisborne sickness beneficiary has been sentenced to 150 hours community service after he was caught illegally possessing and selling oysters and pipi at Gisborne’s Alfred Cox Flea Market.
Watene Tawa Waikari, 59, appeared before Judge Eddie Paul in the Gisborne District Court last Friday.
Fishery officers approached Waikari at the flea market in August last year and questioned him about his activities. He admitted selling bags of pipi for $5 each and ‘big fat pacific oysters’ for $10. He made $200 that morning from selling approximately 12 bags of oysters and six bags of pipi.
Waikari had taken the pipi and oysters from the Ohiwa Harbour mudflats, near Opotiki, and transported them to Gisborne to sell at the flea market. He had sold oysters at the flea market on another occasion.
Waikari told the fishery officers that he thought selling shellfish was just like selling whitebait and he thought it was OK to sell.
Waikari’s lawyer, Mark Skeats, said that his client could not afford to pay a fine nor was he well enough because of health problems to do community service.
Judge Paul said that if Waikari was well enough to gather seafood he could undertake community service, but light duties.
MFish Fisheries Prosecutor, Morgan Dunn, explained that Waikari had a number of previous convictions relating to illegal rock lobster.
In addition to the 150 hour community service, Waikari’s profits of $231 and a blackboard sign which advertised his pipi and oysters, were ordered forfeiture.
Gisborne district compliance manager, Tom Teneti said the illegal sale of seafood at local markets is a serious concern to the Ministry and he hoped that this penalty would deter others from becoming involved in similar offending.
“The general public need to be aware that only legitimate entities can sell directly to the public such as Licensed Fish Receivers and dealers in fish. Any sale of such seafood must come from a legitimate source and be accompanied by appropriate records showing proof of purchase.”
He said Waikari’s apprehension came from information provided by shoppers at the flea market who alerted fishery officers on the MFish 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) hotline.
“We encourage people to call with their concerns about suspected illegal activity like the offering of cheap shellfish - not only pipi and oysters but also paua, rock lobster, and wetfish”.
Whitebait, which is administered by the Department of Conservation, can be sold by recreational fishers but the sale of wetfish and shellfish is strictly prohibited by recreational or amateur fishers under Fisheries Legislation and the Fisheries Act 1996.