Foreign merchant vessels are being warned that a zero-tolerance approach will be taken to crew members who exploit our fisheries without regard to the rules.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is concerned that despite being repeatedly provided with the rules around the legal take and size limit of shellfish, overseas crew from merchant vessels passing through the Bluff region have been caught, on several occasions, breaking the rules.
MPI spokesman Garreth Jay says the most recent incident involved 4 crew members who were caught near Ocean Beach at Bluff with a total of 91 black foot pāua, 82 of which were undersized, and 42 yellow foot pāua, of which 26 were undersized.
He says the offending is unacceptable.
"As well as taking undersized pāua, the 4 crew members took 51 excess black foot and two excess yellow foot pāua.
"Many of the undersized were well below the minimum legal size of 125mm for black foot pāua and 80mm for yellow foot pāua with several at little more than half the minimum size allowed. None of the crew had any sort of measuring tool with them.
"Earlier in the week, 2 other crew members from the same boat, including the captain, had received warning notices for having taken undersized pāua, and had been provided pamphlets and pāua gauges and told to ensure the crew knew the rules before fishing while in New Zealand waters.
"It was extremely disappointing that the message didn’t seem to have gotten through to others on the vessel. Fishery officers won’t treat foreign crew any differently to local offenders. The rules are the rules and they exist for very good reason.”
Mr Jay says there have been several instances over recent years where visiting crew are caught in breach of pāua regulations despite there being notices at the local wharf departure gates, and despite sometimes being told by shipping agents of the rules. MPI biosecurity staff pass on the rules at times as well.
"The rules are set to ensure the sustainability of New Zealand’s precious fishery resources. We’ll continue to take this stance against anyone who negatively impacts the sustainability of the New Zealand fishery.”
The 4 crew caught near Ocean Beach each received infringement fines of $1,000 for possession of excess and undersized shellfish. MPI seized the entire catch and returned all the pāua to the water.