A Christchurch hairdresser's illegal take of cat's eyes and pāua displayed a blatant disregard for the health and future sustainability of a precious fishery, says the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Twenty-five-year-old Haiqiang Lin was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court recently after earlier pleading guilty to gathering 3 times the legal limit of pāua, the majority of which were undersized, as well as 3 times the legal limit of cat's eyes from an area in the Akaroa Harbour Taiāpure.
He was fined $2,000 and ordered to pay court costs of $390.
Mr Lin was caught after MPI fishery officers on patrol in the area in March this year, became suspicious and pulled his vehicle over for inspection. After initially denying he had gathered shellfish or pāua from the area, he admitted, under further questioning, that he had been.
The fishery officers then discovered 48 blackfoot pāua – 45 of which were undersized, ranging from 99mm to 124mm – and 70 cat's eyes. Only 1 pāua was of legal size (125mm).
MPI spokesman Howard Reid says the offending was very disappointing.
"The Akaroa Harbour Taiāpure committee was concerned enough for the species in the harbour that they established a lower catch limit a few years ago to reduce the fishing pressure," he says.
"Under the revised regulations, the limit for cat's eyes is 20 per person per day. Mr Lin clearly took over 3 times that limit.
"These shellfish are a keystone species in the food web in which they exist. If these shellfish are removed from the ecosystem, a monoculture of algae could result, severely reducing the ability of other more highly valued species, like mussels, to exist in the area."
Mr Reid says taking undersized and excess pāua is also very damaging.
"They are a slow-growing shellfish. Daily limits are in place to ensure enough pāua survive through to breeding maturity to help sustain the fishery. The taking of excess and undersized pāua threatens the future sustainability of the fishery and causes local depletion which causes more stress to other areas."
Mr Reid says the fine handed down to Mr Lin, who has previously been caught taking excess pāua and undersized pāua, should serve as a warning to others.
"With recreational fishing starting up again as the weather gets warmer, we're reminding people that we're out and about, patrolling the coastlines and beaches to ensure people are respecting the rules.
"We'll be reminding them of the daily catch and size limits and why it's so vital that stocks are maintained for the preservation of precious ecosystems as well as for future generations of recreational fishers."