Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fishery officers patrolling the Kaikōura coastline have caught a diver with 249 pāua – nearly 50 times the daily limit.
One hundred and eleven (111) of these shellfish were undersize. The daily limit is 5 blackfoot pāua per person with a minimum legal size of 125mm.
The pāua fishery opened on 1 December for 3 months, after being closed for 5 years because of the 2016 earthquakes that caused seabed uplift and damage to the marine habitat.
On Saturday morning (11 December) at around 5am a fishery officer and 2 honorary fishery officers were patrolling at the top end of the fishery – the Cape Campbell area near Blenheim.
"Our people saw this diver – a local man from Blenheim, gathering the pāua and stashing it in 3 suitcases. When they approached him at his vehicle, he backed up the vehicle near the water, dumped the cases in the water before fleeing the scene," says MPI regional manager fisheries compliance, Howard Reid.
"Police were called in and he was pulled over in his vehicle shortly afterwards. The fishery officers recovered the pāua, which the man admitted gathering," Mr Reid says.
The man had been diving in the very early hours of the morning so had gone to significant effort to evade detection.
"We said when the Kaikōura fishery opened for 3 months that we had officers potentially out and about at all hours of the day. Our message to people tempted to steal this precious kaimoana is not to test us," he says.
The investigation is continuing, and the man is likely to face prosecution.
"Everyone has a part to play and we’d like to thank the locals in the area who helped us retrieve the man’s illegal catch which has been retained as evidence. Most people have been following the rules since the Kaikōura pāua fishery opened and we’re obviously disappointed by this man’s actions.
"The long-term future of this important fishery is reliant on people following the rules – they’re there to protect the resource," Mr Reid says.
For further details on fishing rules for this and other areas, download the free NZ Fishing Rules app.
To report any suspicious fishing activity, phone the MPI 0800 4 POACHER hotline (0800 47 62 24).