Black market rock lobster and pāua operation valued at about $30,000

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A Canterbury diesel mechanic and well-known local fisherman is to undergo electronic monitoring for 4 months after pleading guilty to running a lengthy black market pāua and rock lobster operation.

Forty-five-year-old Sefton man Michael Andrew Dickson received a sentence of 4 months' community detention and 200 hours' community work when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court today.

His offending was uncovered during a Ministry for Primary Industries investigation.

The court heard that between the periods of January to May 2015 and September 2015 to May 2016, Dickson sold 346 rock lobster and 200 pāua on the black market.

The total retail value of the rock lobster and pāua combined, if purchased legitimately, was over $30,000.

It's not known how much Dickson benefited financially from his offending but MPI estimates it would've been substantial. In return for providing people with the illegally taken catch, Dickson received a combination of cash, favours, alcohol, and wild meat.

MPI spokesman Howard Reid says Dickson recreationally dived for both pāua and rock lobster mainly in the Kaikōura area and also acquired the recreational catch of rock lobster and pāua from other divers.

"He organised sales by text and phone calls to various people including workmates," says Mr Reid.

"The estimated commercial value of the illegal sale of the paua was around $2,240 and between $27,680 and $34,600 for the rock lobster."

Mr Dickson abused his position as a trusted recreational fisher. His offending was clearly planned and deliberate and was ongoing over 2 years."

Mr Reid says Dickson admitted being aware of the rules and regulations during the period of his offending but that didn’t stop him from operating outside the quota management system at all times he was selling seafood.

He says this type of offending seriously undercuts the legal commercial fishery and impacts commercial, recreational, and customary fishers as well as the sustainability of the rock lobster."

Not only that, the illegal take of rock lobster and pāua is a serious concern in Kaikōura.

"Following the earthquakes, there is even greater concern over the sustainability of pāua in the area. MPI this year issued a ban on the taking of all shellfish in the Kaikōura area which includes pāua."

Mr Reid says seafood exports rank as New Zealand's fourth or fifth largest export earner and the annual loss of revenue to New Zealand through black market activity like this is in the millions of dollars.

A range of items used by Dickson in the offending including dive gear, a boat, and freezers, were forfeited to the Crown.

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