Black market net closes in Southland
31 March 2009
Nearly 30 Fishery officers and police closed the net on a Southland black market fish ring in the early hours of this morning.
The operation revolves around two Southland commercial fishers, alleged to have been supplying blue cod, rock lobster and oysters for the local black market.
These fishers are thought to have supplied associates, who then on-sold the fish illegally to others in the wider community, says Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager Reece Murphy.
“Fish sales in New Zealand are controlled under the Quota Management System,” Reece says. “Continued black market activity can threaten to undermine the Quota Management System and place the sustainability of our fish stocks in jeopardy.”
He says people knowingly contravening the Fisheries Act to obtain a benefit could face up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine up to $250,000 or both. Forfeiture provisions of the Fisheries Act also apply.
“Unfortunately there continues to be those amongst the general public who are willing to buy cheap but illegal fish,” Reece says. “It is these buyers that create the market for illegal fish sellers to operate.
“If you’re offered cheap fish and it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
He says Fishery officers have already identified a number of people who have been buying the illegal fish and will be contacting them in the course of their enquiries.
“Anyone who now on reflection believes that they may have unwittingly bought suspect rock lobster, blue cod or oysters recently is encouraged to contact the Ministry of Fisheries’ Invercargill office before Fishery Officers have to contact them,” Reece says.