Northland paua thieves nabbed
28 April 2010
Earlier this week Fishery Officers apprehended three groups of people diving for paua on Northland’s west coast at Kawerua. A total of 274 paua, almost all undersize, were seized.
In the worst case of offending a 51-year-old Dargaville man was apprehended with 121 undersize shellfish. At the same time a 54-year-old man was found with 22 paua.
A Dargaville man and woman were also located just after leaving the water and found to have 60 paua between them, 55 of which were undersize.
In the most unusual apprehension of the day, two Hokianga men were inspected as they were about to leave the beach riding horses. The first man had 41 paua, 33 of which were undersize, and the second man had 30, all of which were undersize.
“This is a very disappointing result,” said Darren Edwards, Ministry of Fisheries Northland Field Operations Manager. “The west coast paua fishery is constantly coming under pressure from local people who continue to ignore the fisheries regulations.”
The daily limit for paua is 10 per gatherer and the minimum size 125 millimetres.
“If we keep seeing offending on this scale, the fishery will not be sustainable and eventually there will be no paua for the future,” Mr Edwards said.
Whangarei MP and Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said the actions of the alleged offenders were extremely frustrating, particularly at the end of a successful public summer awareness campaign.
“The Ministry has been sending the message that Every Fish Counts. It has been very well received with generally good behaviour throughout the country,” Mr Heatley said. “Responsible fishers everywhere will be outraged that people like this continue to ruin it for the rest of us.”
Those apprehended face prosecution and fines of up to $250,000. Any dive gear, boats and vehicles used in the offending can be forfeited on conviction.
“Fishery Officers can’t be everywhere and we greatly appreciate the public’s assistance,” said Mr Edwards. “If you see any activity you think may be suspicious, contact the Ministry on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).”