Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fishery officers today (3 August) executed multiple search warrants at properties of people believed to be involved in a major East Coast black market crayfish ring.
About 80 officers searched 8 homes in the Māhia, Wairoa, Whakatane and Kawerau areas, beginning in the early hours of this morning. At some of these properties, they were supported by New Zealand Police.
Today's development marks the next phase of a 6-month long investigation into an alleged black market crayfish ring.
"We believe this was a highly organised black market ring which took in excess of 4,300 crayfish with a commercial value of over $300,000 from the Māhia area in Hawkes Bay over a 7-month period," says MPI director of compliance services, Gary Orr.
MPI believes the crayfish were then sold on the black market in Auckland, Kawerau, Rotorua, Tūrangi, Gisborne, Napier, and Blenheim areas.
"The investigation to date has focused on gathering evidence, including surveillance of alleged offending. Today's search warrants will provide further information to support the investigation. We will be gathering a number of formal statements from suspects as part of this work."
Mr Orr says MPI fishery officers work hard to protect our fishing resources from people who seek to profit illegally.
"We hope today's development sends a strong message to others tempted by greed – that we will do everything within our powers under the Fisheries Act to protect the fishing resources owned by all New Zealanders," Gary Orr says.
MPI is unable to offer more detail on the substance of the investigation as the matter is ongoing.
MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).