A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) A109 Light Utility Helicopter completed patrols on about 300 km of coastline in Hawkes Bay last week, resulting in the apprehension of 6 groups that were taking pāua illegally.
In a 2-day operation in support of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), a crew from the RNZAF's No.3 Squadron focused on the coast from Akitio to Mahia Peninsula.
There was plenty of action around Mahia (29 October) when the patrol encountered several groups that were behaving suspiciously.
"Working with Fishery Officers on the ground, the patrol successfully intercepted a group of individuals who were being targeted as part of this operation. These individuals would not have been located without air support so this was a big win," Aircraft Captain Flight Lieutenant Sam Estall said.
"Several individuals were flouting the pāua regulations so MPI was very happy that we were able to catch them in the act," he added.
MPI Compliance Operations Manager Gary Orr said "the great team effort on the part of the RNZAF and MPI" will potentially lead to 3 prosecutions and 5 infringement notices being issued.
"Pāua are valued by customary, recreational and commercial fishers alike. We need to protect our pāua stocks so future generations can enjoy them," Mr Orr said.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy said the overt nature of an A109's patrol allows MPI to have a strong visible presence.
"This sends a very clear message to the poachers that they can be hit at any time from the land, sea and from the skies. They have nowhere to hide," AIR CDRE McEvoy said.
"Many of these beaches and reefs are difficult and time-consuming to get to, so checking them from the air is a great way to detect fishing-related activities that would take days to cover by vehicle patrols," he added.