Recreational fisher sentenced on record snapper offence

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An Auckland man was sentenced to 320 hours community work for taking 325 snapper in Papakura District Court today (15 August, 2014).

This is the largest recorded breach of the daily recreational snapper limit.

Loseli Utumoengalu, 43, of Three Kings, had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of taking more than his daily recreational allowance of snapper and the intention sell his catch.

It is illegal for recreational fishers to sell their catch. The maximum penalty is five years in prison or a fine of $250,000.

At the time of the offence the daily recreational allowance for snapper for the northeast North Island was nine per person per day. It is now seven per person per day.

Compliance officers inspected Mr Utumoengalu’s boat at Kawakawa Bay on the 10th of October last year and the catch of the three fishers on board. They were shown a bin containing 27 snapper, which was the joint recreational limit for three fishers.

A further 40 snapper were located under the floor, at which point compliance officers impounded the boat awaiting a court hearing.

On the 14th of October compliance officers noticed an increasingly strong smell of fish coming from the vessel. After unscrewing part of the floor, a further inspection found 258 snapper in the bow of the boat (see picture attached), bringing the total to 325 fish.

During interviews Mr Utumoengalu claimed all the fish were his and he intended to sell them.

One of his fellow fishers, Nancy Utumoengalu, 42, of Three Kings, is also facing charges.

He told compliance officers he wanted to start fishing commercially and he intending to sell the fish to help pay for his start up costs.

Ministry for Primary Industries Compliance Officer Justen Maxwell-McGinn says the huge catch, the effort to conceal it and the intention to sell it makes it a very serious offence.

“This sort of offending is a real risk to the sustainability of any fishery. There wouldn’t be many fish left if everyone behaved like that.

People can report any suspicious fishing activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are confidential.

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