Thieves get custodial sentences for big paua haul
22 June 2011
A group of Wellington paua thieves has failed to heed the lessons from Operation PAID, the recently completed long running paua poaching operation where more than 50 offenders were convicted and given heavy sentences.
On the evening of 7 October 2010, Fishery Officers entered a property in Cannons Creek, Porirua. They located 1259 shucked paua weighing about 105 kilograms.
Several offenders were charged with various fisheries offences, some of which involved taking paua for sale, which is punishable by up to five years’ jail and a $250,000 fine for each charge.
A Laotian man admitted buying the paua for between $15 to $18 a kilogram and that he intended to travel to Auckland and sell the paua for $30 per kilogram.
At the Wellington District Court on 17 June, four of these offenders were sentenced for their part in the criminal activity.
Two men were sentenced to eight months’ home detention and 200 hours’ community work, another to five months’ home detention and 200 hours’ community work, and the fourth to 300 hours’ community work. Others in the group are still before the court.
The Laotian man was sentenced in March to 3.5 months’ home detention and 200 hours’ community work for purchasing the paua and selling it to the Asian community in Auckland.
Three vehicles used in the offending, with a combined value of about $14,000, are forfeit to the Crown.
Ministry of Fisheries Field Operations Manager Mike Green said it was disturbing that organised criminal activity in the paua fishery was still happening.
“I would have thought that the successful conclusion of Operation PAID in particular would have put these sorts of criminals off. Evidently not – we need to steel ourselves to continue the fight and we’ll do everything we possibly can to stop the thieves.”
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley congratulated the Ministry team on their result and reiterated the Government’s determination to support its efforts.
“These activities must and will be stopped,” Mr Heatley said. “The paua fishery must be preserved and the Government will take all necessary steps to make sure this happens.”
The commercial wholesale value of paua meat is currently around $130 a kilogram. Therefore the paua found in this case had a wholesale value of about $13,650.