A Wairoa man who poached crayfish that had a commercial value of nearly $300,000 has been jailed for 2 years and 2 and a half months.
John Nohotima (60) was today sentenced in the Wairoa District Court on one representative charge for the offending following a successful prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
He sold 4,664 recreationally-harvested crayfish to a black-market ring, and other people in his wider local community, for $68,690.
Other members of the black-market ring were sentenced in March to home detention and community work. Meanwhile, Mr Nohotima’s sister, Anne Nohotima (53) was sentenced to 100 hours community work in the Tauranga District Court today for her part in the crayfish poaching. She sold 210 crayfish that her brother poached.
Fisheries New Zealand regional fisheries compliance manager Jodie Cole says Mr Nohotima was the key to the poaching ring's operation.
"Mr Nohotima used falsified customary permits to illegally harvest this crayfish with around 16 craypots, fishing from the waters near Mahia Peninsula. The crayfish was on-sold to the Kawerau based ring-leaders who distributed the crayfish throughout Auckland, Kawerau, Tauranga, Gisborne, Wairoa, Mahia and Napier.
"It was organised offending involving a number of people. The poaching ringleader, Martin Te Iwingaro Ernest Paul (49) who was earlier sentenced to 9 months home detention, would provide details of often fictious events to Mr Nohotima who would use these to obtain customary permits from Kaitiaki.
Mr Nohitima used different Kaitiaki to hide the number of crayfish he was harvesting. In all he gained 72 permits between 28 December and 21 July 2021, and he sold the crayfish between 1 September 2020 and 1 August 2021.
"Local iwi and marae leaders had no knowledge or involvement in the offending and are also victims of this deception. Not all permits gained were for fictious events, however our evidence found the legitimate permits were also used to sell crayfish illegally. The commercial value of the crayfish taken was $298,517," Jodie Cole says.
Mr Cole says a large amount of the stolen crayfish was sold by the poaching ring at a fraction of the legitimate market price.
"If you’re offered seafood at a price that appears too good to be true – assume it was probably harvested illegally. We’d advise not to buy it, and to let us know who offered it to you," Jodie Cole says.
Upon conviction, a range of equipment including cell phones, craypots, vehicles and a 6m fibreglass boat and trailer were forfeited to the Crown.
"Poachers have no regard for the sustainability of our fisheries. We encourage anyone who has information about illegal fishing of any kind to report it through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ 0800 4 POACHER line (0800 47 62 24)."