The Ministry for Primary Industries is hailing the efforts of 2 dive charter operators who helped identify the offending of a commercial fisherman who was caught fishing in a prohibited area adjacent to a marine reserve.
Kaitaia man, Ty Thomas McQuarrie, 26, pleaded guilty to 1 charge of taking fish by long line within 1 nautical mile of the prohibition area of the Poor Knights Marine Reserve when he appeared in the Whangarei District Court on Friday.
In what MPI is describing as a test case, McQuarrie attracted a $25,000 total penalty for his offending.
McQuarrie began setting a bottom long line from the vessel north of the Poor Knights Islands about 3.30am in April last year. At the conclusion of the set, he had deployed 4,500 hooks.
At about 7am, he began hauling the line and was two-thirds of the way through when a dive charter boat operator saw him.
The operator recorded his vessel's position relevant to that of McQuarrie's, Extreme Limits. He also spoke to one of the crew on board McQuarrie's vessel and was told they were doing nothing.
Another dive charter operator heading from Tutukaka to the Poor Knights also suspected McQuarrie was inside the restricted area.
McQuarrie continued hauling in fish, despite warnings about being in a prohibited area and berthed at Tutukaka later that day, where he sold his catch.
Ministry for Primary Industries District Compliance Manager for Northland, Stephen Rudsdale, says an MPI investigation found Extreme Limits was between 700 and 800 metres inside the commercial longline restricted area which is 1 nautical mile around the islands.
He says McQuarrie told investigators the GPS data from the dive charter operators did not appear to have been calibrated and may have been unreliable. MPI then obtained a report from a geodetic surveyor who concluded the GPS systems were correct.
"That completely negated McQuarrie's defence. The evidence was compelling. We relied heavily on the 2 dive charter operators' evidence. Their work was absolutely vital in this case."
McQuarrie was fined $7,500 and ordered to pay $3,200, which was proceeds from the sale of fish.
He was also ordered to pay a further $15,000 in redemption fees for the return of his vessel. The vessel is worth $330,000.