The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is hailing the efforts of local iwi and members of the public for helping fishery officers catch a group of divers who took more than twice the daily limit of freshwater crayfish at Lake Okataina.
MPI spokesman Adam Plumstead says MPI was acting on information it received from concerned community members who were up in arms about what was happening.
“After following up on this invaluable information, we discovered that a group of divers, all from the Auckland region, had taken a total of 587 kōura (freshwater crayfish) from the lake.
“The daily limit for one person is 50 kōura meaning they collectively took 387 more than they are legally entitled to.
“This sort of offending is really serious. Kōura is a very important species with cultural significance. On top of this, the amount taken has an impact on the sustainability of the fishery.
“Obviously the local community has been deeply distressed by the actions of these divers and they are pleased and relieved that we have been able to put a stop to their activity.
“It is thanks to the eyes and ears of the public that we’ve been able to achieve this outcome. People in the area care deeply about the health of their local fishery. The fact they came to MPI to report what they had seen and heard about is fantastic.”
Mr Plumstead says one vehicle and a large quantity of dive gear was seized from the group.
He says that MPI is making further inquiries into the incident and the alleged offenders could face serious charges.
Anyone who sees or hears about illegal fishing activity is encouraged to call the MPI poacher hotline on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).