Paua plunderer fined $3500 and told: “Hands off the shellfish!”
14 April 2010
A Tauranga man who took 40 undersized paua from the Mount Maunganui area has been fined $3500 and told to get his hands off the shellfish.
Lawrence Watene Rota, a 43-year-old forklift operator from Gate Pa, received the fine and the instruction today when he appeared before Judge Ingram in the Tauranga District Court.
Rota was caught on the walking track at the base of Mount Maunganui in February after Fishery Officers received a call on the Ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER line.
Despite claiming to only have kina in his backpack, Rota was found to have 40 paua, all of which were smaller than the minimum legal size of 125 millimetres (the paua ranged in size from 124 millimetres to just 74). The legal daily maximum for legally sized paua is 10 per person.
After being discovered with the paua, Rota became aggressive and abusive towards the Fishery Officer and the police were called to help deal with him.
When questioned, Rota claimed he did not know the rules on collecting paua. He also said he had not seen the large fisheries information sign featuring the paua regulations, past which he must have walked to get to his dive area at the base of Mount Maunganui.
This was the second time Rota had been caught breaking the paua regulations; in 2005 he received a $250 infringement notice after being caught with seven undersized paua.
Ministry of Fisheries senior prosecutor Morgan Dunn told the court that Mount Maunganui is heavily populated and easily accessible. He also said the paua stocks there are under pressure and asked the court for a deterrent penalty.
Judge Ingram said it was a “pathetic excuse” for Rota to say he didn’t know the rules, given the large signs that are there and that he had been previously been caught taking undersized paua.
Rota was fined $2000 for having excess paua and a further $1500 for having undersize paua. He was also ordered to pay court costs of $260 and was told by the court to get his hands off the shellfish, except what he was lawfully allowed to take.
Ministry of Fisheries Field Operations Manager Brendon Mikkelsen said it was disappointing to see a repeat offender failing to learn from his previous encounter with Fishery Officers.
“On the other hand, it is great to see our 0800 4 POACHER line continuing to work well. Other fishers and members of the public are simply not prepared to stand by and watch a small minority plunder the shellfish beds and fishing stocks,” he said.
“When they see something that is wrong, they have no hesitation in ringing the 0800 4 POACHER number. That helps us respond quickly and often to catch offenders like Rota in the act.”