Three groups of recreational divers face prosecution after being nabbed with a total of almost 400 illegally caught pāua in the Wellington region over the weekend.
The divers were caught as the Ministry for Primary Industries marked the start of its summer patrols.
Ministry for Primary Industries District Compliance Manager, Mike Green, says it was a disappointing start to the programme.
"More than 40 fishery officers and honorary fishery officers conducted both land and vessel patrols targeting recreational fishers in Wellington, Kapiti and Wairarapa over the weekend.
"We inspected and boarded more than 30 recreational vessels and spoke to more than 200 people.
"As a result, 3 separate groups of divers will be prosecuted for excess and undersized pāua and excess mussels.
"One of the groups had in excess of 290 pāua. The vehicle and dive gear used in the alleged offending were seized.
"Others received infringements and/or warning notices.
"We’re very disappointed with what we discovered. Our message is very clear: if you break the law, you’ll face the consequences.
"The rules around catch and size limits for pāua and shellfish are clear. People who insist on taking excess and under-sized pāua are depleting stocks for future generations.
"Some of the people we caught were experienced divers who know the rules but chose to flout them. There’s no excuse for that.
"We will be out and about patrolling all summer so if you’re contemplating taking more than your fair share and taking under-sized shellfish, be warned."
For more information on the rules around catch size and limits:
- check out the Fishing rules section
- download our NZ Fishing Rules app. It's available on Apple and android devices.