Fishery officers finished 12 months of monitoring black market activity when they moved in and seized pāua, dive gear and electronic equipment across Bay of Plenty over the past 2 days (24 and 25 November).
The black market ring was allegedly centred around Motiti Island, off the coast of Tauranga, where divers gathered pāua and kina and sold them to a network of buyers in Tauranga, Whakatane, Hamilton and Auckland.
Fishery officers and police searched houses at Motiti Island and Tauranga, and several business premises, including a powered-storage facility at Mount Maunganui, where they seized two freezers containing 116kg of pāua with a commercial value of $15,000. The pāua was minced and frozen in 500g and 1kg bags – 210 bags in total.
A Tauranga food business is alleged to be involved in the sale of pāua and kina.
Ministry for Primary Industries District Compliance Manager Waikato/Bay of Plenty Brendon Mikkelsen said this week's operation was the result of 12 months of investigation and analysis into black market activity.
During this time, it is believed 231kg of minced pāua with a commercial value of $30,000 was poached and sold. It is believed 43 litres of kina were poached and sold for $3500.
Total items seized:
- 116 kg of pāua
- 2 freezers
- 35 electronic devices, including computers, tablets and cell phones
- diving gear
Mr Mikkelsen said pāua and kina are a prized resource in Bay of Plenty.
"Pāua and kina don't move around much and need to be in reasonable numbers to successfully reproduce. Such offending in concentrated areas may impact on the species ability to breed and on other people's opportunity to gather.'
"People like this are effectively thieving seafood from their own communities to make a quick buck."
Mr Mikkelsen said fishery officers will be going through the seized electronic equipment and doing further investigations before considering laying charges.
"We'd like to hear from anyone who may have information that will help us with our inquiries."
Report any suspicious fishing related activity to the 0800 4POACHER hotline (0800 4 762 243).
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