Recidivist Paua Poachers Nailed
7 September 2009
Late last week Ministry of Fisheries officers successfully nabbed two notorious paua thieves in the Wellington area.
These offenders were operating with divers in organised criminal groups in the Titahi Bay and Makara Beach areas. Almost 1200 paua, many undersized, were recovered at Titahi Bay, and 15 kilograms of paua meat at Makara.
“The ringleaders are well known to us,” said Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager Ross Thurston. “One of them is already a banned fisher from an earlier operation. These people operate sophisticated criminal groups set up for pecuniary gain. They couldn’t care less that they’re systematically stripping our fishing inheritance and pillaging the environment while they’re at it.”
The offending happened at a time when the closure of a nearby fishery, Pukerua Bay, was extended by regulation with the support of the local community.
“What a contrast between the responsible actions of one local community and the dirty work of people like these offenders just down the road – they’re taking away another community’s birthright,” Mr Thurston said. “The paua fishery is very vulnerable and needs our protection in the face of unscrupulous human threats.”
Storm Stanley, Chairman of the Paua Industry Council, offered congratulations and thanks to the Ministry enforcement teams who carried out this highly successful operation.
“This is a clear signal that MFish needs to keep the pressure on the criminal organisations attacking our fishing resources,” he said. “The rapacious actions of these thieves is the biggest single threat to paua populations around the coast. Especially alarming is the fact that these are repeat offenders. The judiciary has to back up MFish enforcement efforts with the toughest sentencing possible.”
Graeme Hastilow of Ngati Toa said, “We are really disturbed that activities like this, particularly of this magnitude, are happening on our coastline. The actions of these individuals are nothing short of deplorable and we support the Ministry in its work of shutting down the illegal activities that threaten our fisheries resources.”
Ross Thurston said he was grateful to his staff – Fishery Officers, Honorary Fishery Officers and Investigators – who had carried out the operations. In the Titahi Bay case, there were nine offenders in an isolated area. “I am very proud of their efforts and the outcome. It is a credit to their competence, capability and command decisions made in the face of adversity.” The alleged offenders will be appearing in court and facing serious charges.
“I hope this serves a warning to people who don’t respect the rules that the Ministry is serious and won’t give up,” said Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley.
If you see anything suspicious on or around our beaches, call 0800 4 POACHER.