Paua poachers can expect severe penalties
27 January 2005
The law provides severe penalties for anyone convicted of poaching and black market offences," Stephen Stuart, National Compliance Manager for the Ministry of Fisheries said today. "Penalties under the Fisheries Act 1996 range up to five years imprisonment, or fines up to $250,000, or both, on each charge."
Mr Stuart was responding to public calls for increased penalties after recent paua "busts" in the Wairarapa and a high number of cases coming before the courts. This is a reflection of the serious effort the Ministry is putting into apprehending poachers.
"The law also provides for forfeiture of any property or equipment used in committing poaching offences including cars, boats, and dive gear," said Mr Stuart. We frequently seize such equipment in the course of paua busts and it is automatically forfeit following conviction unless the court for special reasons orders otherwise."
In the last three months the Ministry has taken 23 cases involving paua poaching to court with a 100 percent success rate. Over the whole of 2004 the success rate in bringing prosecutions was extremely high - over 95 percent - so anyone caught committing an offence has a high probability of conviction.
"We recognise poaching is a threat to the sustainability of paua stocks, particularly in the Wellington and Wairarapa areas. It undermines the integrity of the Quota Management System and the rights of customary, commercial, and recreational fishers and poachers can expect no warning or second chances."
Recent organisational changes and increased staffing mean the Ministry can put even more effort into catching poachers and bringing them before the courts.
The Ministry has also been working with the Paua industry to develop and implement effective strategies to constrain illegal removals from the paua fisheries. The Paua working group is currently looking at the risks to the fishery and strategies that might limit possible long term damage."
Mr Stuart says the Ministry also receives a lot of useful information from the public and asks that anyone who sees suspicious activity give the Ministry a call on a free hotline, 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476224).