Greedy few spoil great Labour Weekend on Coromandel
28 October 2010
A Labour Weekend of great weather and mostly good behaviour by fishers and seafood gatherers on the Coromandel Peninsula was spoilt by a greedy few, according to the Ministry of Fisheries.
“While the majority, as usual, respected the rules and kept to the bag and size limits, some of those who we checked showed almost unbelievable levels of greed,” said Bay of Plenty/Waikato/Coromandel Field Operations Manager, Brendon Mikkelsen.
In one of the worst cases, a group of three pipi gatherers were caught at Tapu with 858 pipi. They were only entitled to take 50 each, so were more than five and half times over their combined legal limit.
“That is totally unacceptable and the three will almost certainly be charged with serious fisheries offences,” said Mr Mikkelsen.
Paua gatherers at Fantail Bay, near the top of the Peninsula, also caused problems for Fishery Officers. A group of three had 56 paua, all under the legal minimum size of 125 millimetres, 34 of which were gathered by one fisher. Their individual daily limits were just 10 each.
“The simple truth is there are virtually no legal-sized paua anywhere on the Coromandel,” says Mr Mikkelsen. “Therefore, those who go paua hunting are, in essence, setting out to break the law.
“We have a very low tolerance for this sort of behaviour and will almost always prosecute those we catch.”
Another man likely to face serious charges refused to stop at a Ministry checkpoint near Colville.
“This really was a moment of total craziness,” said Mr Mikkelsen. “He admitted seeing the Fishery Officer attempting to stop him but seemed to panic for some reason, and simply drove straight through.
“He was finally stopped further down the road by which time he didn’t have any illegal seafood on board, although he did admit to having been spooked by the officers and dumping a small quantity of shellfish, so it’s hard to work out why he refused to stop as failing to stop for a Fishery Officer carries a far greater penalty than possessing excess or undersized shellfish.”
Refusing to stop at a Ministry checkpoint is a serious offence and the man’s car was seized. He is likely to face an obstruction charge.
Two full-time Fishery Officers and 8 Honorary Fishery Officers were involved in the large-scale operation, which targeted both coasts of the Coromandel over Labour Weekend. The officers used five vehicles, three quad bikes and a boat and checked fishers at sea, on boat ramps and wharves, and on beaches.
“The good news is that a total of 234 people were inspected and only 13 offences were detected,” said Mr Mikkelsen.
“It was also good to see the majority of divers were leaving the undersized paua alone and instead focusing on the kina, which is plentiful in this area.
“We all need to work together to protect our fishing resources for now and into the future.”
This summer, the Ministry is running a “4 Million Guardians” campaign to raise awareness of fisheries rules and encourage members of the public to help protect the fishery.
“We’re all guardians of our precious fisheries resources,” says Mr Mikkelsen. “It’s very important to remember this as we enjoy our favourite fishing spots around the country.”
Mr Mikkelsen urged fishers to find out about the rules before they go, especially the numbers and sizes of fish they can take.
“Once you’re up to speed yourself, tell your children/whanau as well. And if you see any illegal fishing activity, please ring the Ministry’s popular 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 476 224).