MPI Honorary Fishery Officers catch shellfish poachers

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A huge haul of shellfish collected at an Auckland beach may see two Auckland women facing serious fisheries charges.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Honorary Fishery Officers responded to a call from the public on 0800 4 POACHER line relating to excess shellfish being taken from a beach in the Eastern suburbs June 2014.

(Honorary Fishery Officers are uniformed volunteers who are trained to assist with education and compliance around fisheries regulations).

When the officers arrived they spoke to two women who had attempted to conceal a large sack of cockles under a ledge on the beach. It was discovered that in total, they had gathered 1,162 cockles and 183 whelks between them.   Further investigation revealed a further 960 shucked rock oysters in a container inside their vehicle.

The daily legal entitlement for cockles is 50 per gatherer per day. Rock oysters and whelks can make up part of a combined limit of 50 other specified shellfish species per gatherer per day. 

The vehicle where the rock oysters were found was seized by MPI and inquiries are continuing.

MPI Honorary Fisheries Co-ordinator Anna Willison says: “It is especially puzzling that people continue to offend like this when by sticking to the daily limits provides them with more than enough shellfish for a meal and has no consequence.”

“There is no excuse for people not to know the daily limits – there is signage at many beaches and there is plenty of information available on the MPI website, including an app which can be downloaded to a smart phone” Mrs Willison says.

There are three Eastern beaches that have sustainability measures in place to protect the cockle populations.  They are Eastern Beach which is closed to all shell fish gathering, Cockle Bay which has a seasonal closure for all shellfish gathering between 1 October to 30 April,  and Umupuia (Dudars beach) has a Rahui in place which also prohibits all shell fish gathering.

“Shellfish do an important job of filtering the water, and keeping it clean.  They are also a food source for larger fish.  With depleting cockle populations, we can expect a decrease in the water quality, which has the flow-on effect of a reduction of the population of other species of fish such as snapper. This is why it’s so important we look after our cockle beds.”

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