Compliance officers from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) conducted a search warrant at a Hamilton address on 16 May after a two-month investigation into suspected selling of black-market paua and crayfish prepared meals through Facebook.
The seafood was sourced by a recreational diver from Motiti Island, in the Bay of Plenty, and then taken back to the Hamilton address where it was processed for sale or added to meals. The premises used to process the seafood and meals was not a registered food business.
It is illegal to sell seafood that has not been taken under a current commercial fishing permit. It is also illegal to sell food that has been processed for human consumption outside of a risk management program (RMP). A RMP sets the standard for food handling and ensures that any food sold to the public is fit for human consumption.
When MPI officers searched the Hamilton address they found 14 kg of minced paua a number of crayfish and some frozen fish all taken illegally.
“This type of offending is disappointing to see,” says MPI Manukau District Compliance Manager Michael Greenstreet.
“Firstly it depletes valuable stocks of paua and crayfish from an area that is still dealing with the aftermath of the Rena grounding and it puts the public at risk of food related illnesses by not adhering to standard food safety practices.”
Mr Greenstreet warns people not to buy seafood from Facebook unless they know it has come from a legitimate source or buy home cooked meals from Facebook as there is no guarantee that the food has been handled correctly and they could get sick from eating it.
“The cooking area was disgusting. I don’t know how people weren’t seriously ill from eating this food.”
The investigation is continuing, and the offenders may face charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 with a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000, and the Animal Products Act 1999 with penalties up to $100,000 and/or up to two years imprisonment.