The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Department of Conservation (DOC) are warning that they will continue to take a zero tolerance approach towards people who poach from the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve north of Gisborne.
MPI spokesman, Adam Plumstead, says a recent operation targeted at people taking sea life from the reserve, resulted in 16 people being caught allegedly committing offences under the Marine Reserves Act.
"There are absolutely no exceptions to the rules around taking sea life from marine reserves which are a protected environment for a very good reason," says Mr Plumstead.
"The Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve protects over 2,400 hectares of coastline and its marine life from any threats to its existence and when people intentionally disturb that, and take marine life from this area, they are destroying this very special habitat."
The illegal haul included 55 crayfish and 621 kina.
All the people caught allegedly committing offences are all likely to face court action. In addition, a number of vehicles used in the offences were seized.
The marine reserve, which is 16km north of Gisborne, was established in 1999 after years of hard work by Ngati Kōnohi and the Department of Conservation.
DOC's East Coast District Manager, John Lucas, says the taking of marine life by some people is extremely disappointing.
"This type of offending impacts on educational opportunities and affects the ongoing restoration of the marine environment.
"We will continue to work with MPI to closely monitor activity around the reserve to ensure those who act illegally will wear the consequences. We take a zero tolerance approach to all offending."
Mr Lucas is encouraging members of the public to remain vigilant and alert to any suspicious activity and to contact DOC or MPI via the agencies' poacher hotlines (DOC's number is: 0800 362 468; MPI's number is: 0800 POACHER 0800 476 224).
"Rather than approach people suspected of illegal activity, we would encourage the public to record useful information including descriptions of the person or people who they believe are committing an offence, vehicle makes and registration numbers and anything else that could be useful in identifying them," says Mr Lucas.
"The combined efforts of government agencies and information from the public will help minimise this type of offending.
"The reserve is very popular with people who enjoy this unique part of New Zealand. We are encouraging people to use the marine reserve for the purposes for which it is intended. Enjoy your visit, take only photos and leave footprints only."