More than $15,000 of paua collected by a black market shellfish ring has been seized after a year-long investigation.
Fishery officers seized paua, dive gear and electronic equipment in raids in the Bay of Plenty this week.
Along with police, the officers searched houses across the Western Bay, and several business premises, including a powered-storage facility at Mount Maunganui, where they seized two freezers containing 116kg of paua with a commercial value of $15,000.
The paua was minced and frozen in 500g and 1kg bags - 210 bags in total.
The black market ring allegedly involved divers gathering paua and kina and selling them to a network of buyers in Tauranga, Whakatane, Hamilton and Auckland.
A Tauranga food business is alleged to be involved in the sale of paua and kina.
Ministry for Primary Industries District Compliance Manager Waikato and Bay of Plenty Brendon Mikkelsen said this week's operation was the result of 12 months of investigation and analysis into black market activity.
During the time, it is believed 231kg of minced paua with a commercial value of $30,000 was poached and sold.
It is believed 43 litres of kina were poached and sold for $3500.
Mr Mikkelsen said paua and kina are a prized resource in Bay of Plenty.
"Paua and kina don't move around much and need to be in reasonable numbers to successfully reproduce. Such offending in concentrated areas may impact on the species ability to breed and on other people's opportunity to gather."
"People like this are effectively thieving seafood from their own communities to make a quick buck."
Mr Mikkelsen said fishery officers would be going through the seized electronic equipment and doing further investigations before considering laying charges.
"We'd like to hear from anyone who may have information that will help us with our inquiries."
Please report any suspicious fishing related activity to the 0800 4POACHER hotline (0800 4 762 243).
Total items seized:
116 kg of paua
35 electronic devices, including computers, tablets and cell phones