Northland fishery offender convicted for obstructing a fishery officer and taking mussels from a closed area

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

A Whangarei labourer has been fined $1,060 for refusing to cooperate and allow fishery officers to conduct an inspection, and taking mussels from a closed fishery area.

Tobias Mario Maaka, 34, a repeat fisheries offender, appeared in the Whangarei District Court for sentencing on 2 fisheries charges.

Ministry for Primary Industries northern regional fisheries compliance manager Stephen Rudsdale said Mr Maaka acted with no regard for the rules.

"We do not tolerate this type of offending, and people who obstruct fishery officers should know this will result in prosecution.

"Our fishery officers have a really important role to play in protecting our fish stocks, and the majority of the public understand that and are helpful and cooperative. But unfortunately they also have to deal with abusive language, threats, and obstruction."

The charges relate to an incident where fishery officers were on patrol in the harbour when they observed Mr Maaka and an associate gathering shellfish from Mair Bank in Whangarei Harbour and placing them into a bucket.

Fishery officers got off the patrol vessel and waded through the water toward Mr Maaka to speak to him. When he saw the officers coming he began walking towards the shore carrying the bucket.

The fishery officers called out to Mr Maaka to stop, identifying themselves as "Fisheries". Maaka ignored calls to stop and refused to hand over the bucket of mussels.

In 2018, after a drastic decline in shellfish numbers, the area at Marsden and Mair Bank in Whangarei Harbour was closed for a period of 2 years to the gathering of all shellfish. This was done at the request of iwi Patuharakeke and other stakeholders. The area is considered an important food source for customary and recreational fishers.

"It's everyone's responsibility to ensure we have a sustainable fishery. Our job is to work to find a balance between different communities' needs, the need to ensure our fisheries continue to provide for us all," said Mr Rudsdale.

Most New Zealanders do the right thing, but when you see bad things happening it's your responsibility to let us know. If you become aware of any suspicious fishing activity, call us on 0800 4 POACHER or email ncc@mpi.govt.nz

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