Ministry for Primary Industries fishery officers have returned almost 600 undersized pāua to the sea near Napier after several large-scale pāua busts that occurred over one day.
Team Manager Eastern and Lower North Island, Mike Green, says a routine day last Friday turned into one of a steady stream of discoveries of people taking excess pāua as well as undersized pāua at Tangoio Beach.
"Officers were involved in at least five incidents over a matter of a few hours where people were caught with very large amounts of pāua, most of which didn’t meet the minimum size requirements," says Mr Green.
"In the first incident, fisheries offices stopped two men as they returned to their vehicle and found they had 87 undersized pāua between them.
"Shortly after that, another man arrived on the scene with a heavily laden pack full of pāua which he put into a car before being approached by fisheries officers. As one of the officers was speaking to him, the man sped away but his attempt to evade the officers ended abruptly when he collided with a caravan parked nearby.
"The man then leapt from the car and ran off taking the back pack with him. He returned a short time later without the back pack but officers found the bag hidden in long grass some time later.
"While officers were dealing with the vehicle crash incident another man arrived at the carpark with a sack. When that bag was inspected, it was found to contain 140 pāua, the majority of which were undersized.
"In an incident that followed soon after, another man appeared with his catch from a dive at the nearby reef. When officers approached him, he became aggressive and refused to cooperate with an inspection. Despite all efforts to reason with him, the situation escalated to the point where the man was arrested for obstruction. A search of his bag revealed 66 undersized pāua.
"Later that same evening, officers noticed another vehicle arrive at the beach. An inspection revealed a further large quantity of undersized pāua.
"As a result of all of these incidents, a total of 573 pāua was seized and returned to the sea although, unfortunately, some may have been out of the water too long to survive.
"Only 2 of the pāua were legally sized. At least 8 people are likely to appear in court on various charges as a result. In addition, 3 vehicles used in the commission of the offences were seized.
"These incidents are very disappointing. People are continuing to flout the law despite knowing the rules and regulations around catch sizes and limits.
"There is no excuse for this sort of offending. As summer approaches, MPI fisheries officers will be out and about in greater numbers, reminding people of the rules and holding people to account where there is evidence of offending.
"What people need to realise is their illegal actions have a detrimental impact on pāua stocks as well as the availability of pāua for future generations. We urge the public to report any suspicious behaviour to 0800 4 POACHER. That’s 0800 476 224."