Online fisheries offending is a growing trend
Black market sales of fish using social media is a growing trend according to figures from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
This first came to light in 2012 when 4 cases of black market fish trading were identified online.
This quickly grew to 39 cases in 2013, 173 cases in 2014 and 117 cases to the end of August 2015.
It is illegal for people to buy, sell or swap their recreational catch. Depending on the scale of offending people risk facing prosecution and fines of up to $250,000 as well as forfeiture of any gear used in the offence, including computers and cell phones.
At a glance
- 173 cases online black market trading detected in 2014.
- MPI closed an Auckland based black market site with 400 followers in March 2015.
- Online black marketer fined $8550 by court in 2015.
MPI Compliance Director Dean Baigent says the online environment has given people a new way of trading black market seafood.
“Many businesses have taken their products online, including illegitimate businesses and opportunists. Once upon a time someone offered you some cheap crays and pāua at the pub. Now people are getting Facebook alerts.”
Mr Baigent says fisheries officers and intelligence staff have been quick to adapt to offending online.
“The pleasing thing is that people are quick to tell us about this sort of activity, no matter where it happens. We get a lot of calls to our 0800 4POACHER hotline about online posts offering cheap seafood.
“If it’s a minor offence we direct the seller to take the post down and advise them that their name and details are stored by MPI and that similar offending will result in a fine or prosecution.
“If the offending is more serious we’ll investigate with the potential of issuing an infringement notice (fine) or laying charges.”
Six people have been prosecuted so far this year for trading black market fish on social media. One person was sentenced to 225 hours community service, while another was fined $8550.
MPI gave 3 further people infringement notices and instant fines of between $300 and $500.
Mr Baigent says people who buy black market seafood pose as much risk to our fisheries as those who do the illegal fishing.
“If there are no willing buyers, there is no black market. If you are buying a few cheap crays, paua or a bag of fillets, you’re encouraging the illegal fishers to take more. It’s a vicious cycle and our fisheries and those who use them legitimately end up losing.”
“If you happen to see anything of this nature on social media sites, please take a screen shot and contact MPI hotline 0800 4 POACHER (0800 4 762 243). All calls are confidential.”