Northland paua poaching sting nabs 27 offenders
22 February 2011Fishery Officers are continuing to patrol Northland beaches actively pursuing those who flout the fisheries laws.
In the latest two-day Ministry of Fisheries operation focusing on the west coast in the Hokianga, 27 people were apprehended and 912 undersize paua were seized and returned to the sea.
A four-wheel drive vehicle and a large amount of dive gear used in the offending were also seized.
Northland Field Operations Manager Darren Edwards said all the people apprehended were local to the Hokianga or Kaikohe area. In the worst of the offending four men were apprehended with 275 paua, all of which were undersize.
“The most disturbing factor of this offending was the fact that the men had obtained a customary permit which had allowed them to take 80 paua, but had chosen to ignore that and instead took huge amounts of undersize paua,” Mr Edwards said.
The daily bag limit for paua is 10 per diver with a minimum size restriction of 125 millimetres.
“This paua fishery is continuing to come under sustained pressure from local people who don’t seem to understand that the daily bag and size restrictions are there to ensure that we have a sustainable paua fishery now and into the future for all to appreciate,” Mr Edwards said.
Fines for taking excess and undersize paua range from $250 to $250,000 with vehicles, boats and dive gear used in the offending liable to seizure and forfeiture upon conviction.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley, who is also Whangarei MP, said he was sickened that some people continued to flout the rules. “It’s a problem everywhere but I hate seeing this sort of behaviour in my own back yard,” Mr Heatley said. “I am 100 percent behind the Ministry’s efforts to stop the fish thieves. We need to protect our paua stocks. These people are stealing from all New Zealanders, including future generations, and must be nailed to the fence.”
“Fishery Officers will continue to apply pressure to the area through planned operations to ensure that the message is getting through,” Mr Edwards said. “If people offend they will get caught. We need the public’s assistance as Fishery Officers cannot be everywhere.”
The Ministry of Fisheries encourages members of the public to report any suspicious activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).