Fishery Officers praise public in apprehension of group illegally selling oysters

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Fishery officers have praised the Whangarei community after a tip-off from a member of the public led to the apprehension of a group illegally selling oysters.

On July 14th, Northland fishery officers received information from the public that the group – which includes a child as young as 11 – had been travelling in a van selling oysters door-to-door in Tikipunga.

After a second tip-off on Monday, the van was located at an address in Otangarei, Whangarei. The van was followed, and fishery officers witnessed the sale of oysters to an address on the street. A fishery officer was also approached and offered oysters.

A search warrant was later executed at the Otangarei address, and clear evidence of the processing of oysters was found.  Two of the occupants at the address admitted to selling 35 small pottles of oysters at $5 each and 10 large pottles at $10 each.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Northland Compliance Team Leader, Stephen Rudsdale says that this case serves as a reminder that the sale of recreationally taken seafood is illegal and an offence under the Fisheries Act 1996. Those found in breach of the Act risk a maximum fine of up to $250,000 and the forfeiture of all property used during the offending.

Fishery officers seized the van, and members of the group have been apprehended.

Illegal shellfish could also present a food safety risk. They could be contaminated with illness-causing bacteria or toxins if it has been collected from areas where the seawater is not clean (for example biotoxins or pollution – like sewage – is present).

“The successful apprehension of this group wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the public” says Mr Rudsdale.

"Fish can only be purchased from a commercial fisher or a commercially operated fish retailer. It is illegal to purchase as well as sell recreationally caught fish and those caught committing offences may face prosecution,”

“We’re pleased with the outcome, and applaud the efforts of our fishery officers and the community at large, this shows how vital the community is in protecting our fisheries.”

“We also greatly appreciate the support of the community in reporting poachers and those who break the rules. Public information is of critical importance, so if you see people acting suspiciously we urge you to report it"

Fishery officers ask the public to report any suspicious activity in our fisheries by phoning 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are kept strictly confidential.

For further information about fishing rules and limits visit www.fish.govt.nz . Alternatively you can get up-to-date fishing rules with the free MPI fishing app by texting 'app' to 9889 or visiting http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/MFish+Apps/default.htm

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