Fishery officers bust black market crayfish house
14 May 2009
Fishery officers and police have closed the net on a black market rock lobster ring operating near Mimiwhangata in Northland.
In a joint operation, a series of simultaneous searches was executed on rural addresses in the Oakura and Punaruku areas late last week, said Darren Edwards, Ministry of Fisheries’ district compliance manger for Northland.
The searches were the culmination of an extensive surveillance operation sparked by information that a group of men had been diving in the Oakura area for crayfish, which was then being illegally on-sold on the local domestic market.
The surveillance revealed that a particular address in Oakura was being used in a similar fashion to a cannabis ‘tinny house’ to sell illegal rock lobster and fish to members of the public. It is believed that crayfish was being sold for $15-$50 depending on its size, and snapper was being sold for similar dollar values.
As a result of the operation, three locals have been spoken to and may face serious charges against the Fisheries Act with fines of up to $250,000 and forfeiture of property used during the offending. Also, property was seized, including two boats, two tractors, four vehicles, and associated dive gear.
The operation highlights the total disregard for the law shown by a small group of people, said Mr Edwards.
“Our fishery is a finite resource and current regulations are there to ensure that we have a fishery for all to enjoy both now and for future generations,” he said.
Mr Edwards wanted to remind people that fish can only be bought from a commercial fisherman or a commercial fish premise, not from the back yard of someone’s house as was the case in this operation.
“In cases like this, not only can the person selling the fish illegally be prosecuted, but those buying illegal fish can also be prosecuted and fined up to $250,000,” he said.
Anyone offered fish they think might not be being sold legitimately, or who sees any suspicious activity should report this to the Ministry of Fisheries on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476224).