Extremes of behaviour in Northland fisheries
9 March 2011
Northland Fishery Officers have reported generally good levels of compliance with fishing rules in the region over summer – but the worst behaviour has been extremely bad.
A few days ago the Ministry of Fisheries reported 27 people apprehended with almost 1000 paua, many of which were undersize. Earlier, three men with 304 undersize paua were stopped on the west coast, and two divers with 97 undersize scallops were apprehended in the Bay of Islands.
Northland Field Operations Manager Darren Edwards thanked the majority of responsible fishers who followed the rules, but said the paua fishery in particular was coming under sustained pressure. “While most fishers comply with the rules, there are always those who think they can get away with it or that the regulations don’t apply to them.
“It’s mainly local people who don’t seem to understand or care that the rules are there to make sure we have a sustainable fishery for the future. They’re stealing their children’s birthright.”
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley, who is also Whangarei MP, said he was sick and tired of the fish thieves who ruin things for everyone else. “This sort of behaviour won’t be tolerated now or ever,” he said. “I totally support the Ministry’s hard line against the fish plunderers.”
From December 2010 to January 2011, 1,635 inspections were conducted in the Northland region of both recreational and commercial fishers.
“From these inspections 141 offences were detected resulting in 16 prosecutions, 89 infringement notices and 36 warnings,” Mr Edwards said.
“Thirty-nine offences relating to excess or undersize paua were detected, which saw 1,115 paua seized and returned to the sea. At the same time, 32 offences were detected in the scallop fishery, where 563 illegal scallops were returned to the sea.
“As a result of these offences, vehicles, boats and dive gear have been seized, which could be forfeit to the Crown upon conviction.”
Penalties for breaches of fisheries regulations range from $250 to $250,000 and can include forfeiture of property. For more serious offences, convicted offenders can be liable to terms of imprisonment of up to five years.
Fishery Officers will continue to be out and about on our beaches throughout the rest of the summer but they can’t be everywhere.
Members of the public are reminded to report any suspicious activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).
He kaitiaki tätou katoa
We are all guardians