Gisborne men fined total of more than $10,000 between them for crayfish offences

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Two Gisborne men, one a church minister, have been fined a total of more than $10,000 between them for a range of crayfish offences.

Thirty-nine-year-old Aaron Andrew McKay was fined $6,000 after he pleaded guilty in the Gisborne District Court last week, to 2 offences under the Fisheries Act – one for selling 35 crayfish and the other for being in possession for crayfish for sale.

And Tongan church leader, 66-year-old Methodist minister, Sunia Ha’unga, was fined $4,500 after admitting 2 charges – one being in possession of excess crayfish (the daily bag limit is 6) and the other, for breaching the Fisheries Act by intending to gain some benefit from possessing the crayfish.

The vehicles used in both of the offences and gear also used in the offences were forfeited to the Crown. In addition to his fine, Mr McKay was also ordered to pay $3,000 for the release of his car.

Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman, Adam Plumstead, says both men’s actions are very disappointing.

“In Mr McKay’s case, he was involved in selling crayfish illegally in Tauranga in January this year. He had organised, mainly via text, a number of buyers for the 35 illegally caught crayfish he was selling.

“His offending was uncovered by a fisheries officer who had been tipped off about the illegal sale. That fisheries officer then apprehended McKay red–handed with the assistance of 2 local honorary fisheries officers while he was in the process of attempting to sell the crayfish.

“In Mr Ha’unga’s case, he had packaged up 130 crayfish, which is more than 21 times the legal daily catch limit, among 5 boxes of oranges that were destined for family members in Auckland in September last year.

“There is no excuse for this sort of offending. The law is clear.

“The impact of black market poaching restricts the rights of both recreational and customary fishers to access the crayfish stock. It also limits the potential growth in the size of the New Zealand rock lobster industry.

“In addition, there are health and safety concerns where food products like seafood are not handled and processed to approved standards.

“Crayfish is a very sought after commodity and the fishery is already under a lot of pressure. It’s obviously very disappointing to note this sort of offending. People who don’t respect the Fisheries Act will be dealt with accordingly as these 2 cases have shown.

“In Mr McKay’s case, if he offends again under the act, he will be banned from fishing for 3 years”.

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