Seafood sourced by a recreational diver from Motiti Island and then taken to a Hamilton address has been involved in a Ministry for Primary Industries search.
Ministry for Primary Industries compliance officers conducted a search warrant at a Hamilton address on May 16 after a two-month investigation into suspected selling of black-market paua and crayfish prepared meals through Facebook.
The seafood was sourced by a recreational diver from Motiti Island, off the coast of Tauranga, and then taken back to the Hamilton address where it was processed for sale or added to meals. The premises used to process the seafood and meals was not a registered food business.
It is illegal to sell seafood that has not been taken under a current commercial fishing permit. It is also illegal to sell food that has been processed for human consumption outside of a risk management program.
A risk management program sets the standard for food handling and ensures any food sold to the public is fit for human consumption.
When MPI officers searched the Hamilton address they found 14 kg of minced paua a number of crayfish and some frozen fish all taken illegally.
MPI Manukau district compliance manager Michael Greenstreet said that type of offending was disappointing to see.
"Firstly it depletes valuable stocks of paua and crayfish from an area that is still dealing with the aftermath of the Rena grounding and it puts the public at risk of food related illnesses by not adhering to standard food safety practices."
Mr Greenstreet warned people not to buy seafood from Facebook unless they knew it had come from a legitimate source or buy home cooked meals from Facebook as there was no guarantee that the food had been handled correctly and they could get sick from eating it.
"The cooking area was disgusting. I don't know how people weren't seriously ill from eating this food."
The investigation is continuing, and the offenders may face charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 with a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000, and the Animal Products Act 1999 with penalties up to $100,000 and/or up to two years imprisonment.