Tauranga man gets 200 hours for illegal paua
02 March 2010
A Tauranga man caught at Mt Maunganui with 98 undersized paua has been sentenced to 200 hours’ community service.
Riki James Miritana, a 39-year-old unemployed man from Welcome Bay, was sentenced when he appeared in front of Judge Harding in the Tauranga District Court this morning (1 March).
Miritana and an associate were caught by Fishery Officers last September as they came off the walking track at Mt Maunganui.
Miritana had 99 paua, 98 of which were smaller than the legal minimum size of 125 millimetres. Each fisher is allowed to gather a maximum of 10 paua in any one day and all must be above the legal minimum size. With the exception of his one legal-sized paua, Miritana’s catch ranged from 117 millimetres to 77.
His associate had a further 85 paua, all undersized and ranging from 118 millimetres to 77mm.
The two men told the Fishery Officers they did not know the bag and size limits for gathering paua. They also said they had not seen the Ministry of Fisheries’ signs, past which they would have needed to walk twice, that detailed these limits.
In sentencing Miritana, Judge Harding noted that the offending was not a minor breach of the fisheries regulations but rather blatant harvesting on a scale he deemed commercial.
Ministry of Fisheries Field Operations Manager Brendon Mikkelsen said he hoped the sentence acted as a deterrent to others thinking of flouting the fisheries laws.
“We are sick of finding offenders who know where to go to find our seafood, and know how to catch it, but apparently don’t have any idea that there might be limits to how much they can take or what size it has to be. It’s a nonsense.”
This summer, the Ministry has been running a campaign, “Every Fish Counts”, encouraging people to limit their catch and to think of the future health of the fishery.
“Obviously it is a message that didn’t get through to these two. They appear to be in the 5 percent of fishers who simply don’t care about the rest of their community or the future health of the fish stocks.”
Mr Mikkelsen urged anyone who saw any illegal or suspicious fishing activity to call the Ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER number - 0800 476 224.
“If we all work together we can protect our fisheries for now and into the future,” he said.