A Tauranga company that owns 2 local food outlets has been fined $30,000 for possessing pāua from the black market.
D.Lish Limited, trading as DLish Hangi, was convicted and fined in the Tauranga District Court late last month along with a group of Bay of Plenty people who were involved in a black market pāua and kina ring that resulted in more than $20,000 worth of illegal sales over a 13 month period.
The company had earlier pleaded guilty and was sentenced alongside Tauranga husband and wife duo Luana and Hira Noble and Motiti Island resident Lee Wells who had also earlier pleaded guilty to charges under the Fisheries Act.
Luana Noble, who is the sole director of D.Lish Limited, was separately convicted, sentenced to 10 months home detention and 200 hours community work plus ordered to pay court costs of $5,000.
Her husband, Hira, was convicted, sentenced to 10 months home detention and 200 hours community work and ordered to pay costs of $5,000. He was also banned from all fishing activity for 3 years because of previous fisheries convictions.
Lee Wells was convicted and sentenced to 200 hours community work for her part on lesser charges.
Two other people connected to the offending, June Faulkner and Pixie Wells, were previously sentenced.
One other person, Anthony Jackson, will be sentenced next month for his role.
The court heard that between 2014 and 2015 Anthony Jackson and Lee Wells ran a black market business diving for pāua and kina on Motiti Island and selling it on the mainland.
Jackson and Wells were involved in mincing the pāua and packaging it up into half and 1 kilo zip lock bags, then selling the bags for $40 and $80 respectively.
The kina roe was bottled into containers of various sizes and sold for between $30 and $160 depending on the volume.
Luana and Hira Noble were jointly involved in receiving 113kg of the illegally taken minced paua.
Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman, Michael Simmons, says the extent of the offending was very serious.
"Over a 13 month period, 250kg of minced paua and 43 litres of kina were sold on the black market. That represented around $22,000 worth of sales.
"This level of illegal take represents approximately 32% of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the pāua fishery from Tirau Point on the west coast of the North Island to Cape Runaway.
"That's about 33% more than the volume that was commercially harvested across the entire paua fishery in the area in 2014/15.
"This type of illegal activity is extremely serious. Pāua stocks cannot afford to be plundered in this way. The sustainability of the stock is paramount to ensure the survival of a valuable resource for current and future generations."
Mr Simmons says there are also considerable food safety concerns where product isn't handled and processed to approved standards.
"During the period of this offending, a Ministry of Health warning was in place over the gathering of shellfish including pāua and kina in the Bay of Plenty area, including Motiti Island, because of paralytic shellfish toxins which make affected shellfish unsafe for human consumption.
"This could have had serious health consequences.
The sentences handed down to all involved should serve as a warning to anyone who is involved in similar illegal activity or is considering it. MPI takes this sort of offending very seriously and we do everything we can to ensure those involved are held to account."
To report illegal fishing activity, please call: 0800 476 224 (0800 4 POACHER).