Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) compliance officers moved in on illegal fishing operations today (2nd September) at Hastings, Napier and Mahia where recreational and commercial fishers are suspected of illegally selling paua and crayfish.
Operation River involves:
- Executing search warrants on 22 dwellings
- Inspecting commercial fishing premises in Hastings and Napier
- Interviewing 31 people
- Seizing one commercial fishing vessel, three recreational fishing vessels, one tractor, 11 vehicles that were connected with black market catch and sales
- Uncovering illegal trading of 1.8 tonnes of paua (shell on) and 600 crayfish.
MPI Compliance Director Dean Baigent says Operation River has been gathering information on black market fishing and trading in Hawkes Bay since March 2014.
During this time an MPI special duties officer became involved in the black market activities. The officer uncovered illegal trading of paua and crayfish which had been gathered by recreational fishers, some of whom disguised their activities through the use of customary authorisations.
Customary authorisations are issued by local tangata kaitiaki/tiaki but must not be used for financial benefit.
Commercial fishing premises based in Hastings and Napier are being investigated due to their suspected involvement in the illegal trade of shell fish.
Mr Baigent says the theft of paua and crayfish undermines the sustainability of both fisheries, putting them at risk for genuine fishers, whether they are customary, commercial or recreational.
“It is MPI’s role to ensure people are fishing by the rules and to protect New Zealand’s fisheries for future generations. As this operation would indicate, it is something we take very seriously.”
Mr Baigent says MPI has been aware of black market activity within the recreational and commercial sectors in this area for several years. Operation River was planned and implemented to target it.
“Black market trading is very difficult to counter with traditional enforcement methods. The theft of seafood and its subsequent sale often happens below the radar and we have to use different tactics to apprehend those involved.”
It is illegal to sell your recreational fishing catch with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.
Mr Baigent says information from the public is very useful in detecting fisheries offending.
“We rely on the public to help protect their fisheries. I encourage people to report any suspicious fishing, buying or selling to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are confidential.”