A Nelson painter has paid the price for taking pāua from an area in Kaikōura where the collection of shellfish was banned after the 2016 earthquake.
Neville Allistar Moka, 39, pleaded guilty to a charge of fishing in an area closed under emergency measures, when he appeared in the Nelson District Court last week.
He was fined $1,500 and ordered to pay court costs of $130.
Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman, Howard Reid, says Mr Moka's offending took place between June and July last year while he was working on the Kaikōura coast.
He says Mr Moka admitted gathering shellfish on one occasion from the sea opposite to where he was staying.
"He took pāua from within the closed area and claimed he didn't know a ban applied to where he was gathering from," says Mr Reid.
"That's despite there being a prominent sign almost directly across the road from his accommodation.
"The sign clearly stated that the fishery was closed – the sentencing judge found it difficult to accept Mr Moka's explanation."
Another Nelson painter who was sharing accommodation with Mr Moka, 49-year-old Benjamin Beale, received the same fine and was also ordered to pay $130 court costs after pleading guilty to the same charge when he appeared in the Nelson District Court at an earlier date.
Mr Beale claimed he took the pāua at night and didn't see the sign which the sentencing judge dismissed as completely unbelievable.
Mr Reid says both Mr Moka's and Mr Beale's offending is very disappointing.
"The Kaikōura earthquake had a devastating effect on the pāua fishery, with tens of thousands of pāua dying and large areas of productive habitat being lost.
"The fishery still hasn't recovered from the severe impacts of the quake. In these circumstances, any harvest of pāua has a huge negative impact on sustainability."
The Kaikōura pāua fishery also has great significance to the local community, iwi, recreational, and commercial fishers who are represented by Te Korowai, an organisation that's working closely with MPI to promote and encourage sustainable fisheries management.
The chairperson of Te Korowai, Larnce Wichman, says he was disappointed to hear about the breaches of the closure.
"It's sad to see people taking advantage of our already broken resource. We all have to work together to ensure the future recovery of our fishery – the key to this is collective responsibility.
"We appreciate the work of MPI compliance staff who, through regular patrols and persistence, are holding to account those who decide to threaten the recovery of this species which is a valuable taonga for our community."
The area from Conway River to Marfells Beach remains closed indefinitely to the taking of pāua, both recreationally and commercially.