It was people like Raymond Victor John Randall who were putting paua stocks at risk, a Northland judge said.

Randall, a 56-year-old unemployed beneficiary, appeared in the Kaitaia District Court last week on charges of possessing excess and undersized paua.

Judge Keith de Ridder convicted and sentenced him to 150 hours' community work, and ordered his catch bag, an orange float, a pair of fins, a mask, snorkel and knife to be seized.

According to the prosecution Randall went diving alone at Tauroa (Reef Point), Ahipara on December 4. A fisheries officer stopped him and found 94 paua, all of which were smaller than the legal minimum. The maximum daily limit per person was 10.

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Randall told the officer that he had collected all the paua. He knew the daily catch and size limits, but had not counted or measured those he had taken. He did not produce a customary permit.

Judge de Ridder told Randall that while there was no evidence of commercial intent, he had been completely oblivious to the need to count and measure his catch.

This was "quite deliberate plundering" of a resource that was increasingly difficult to "catch" and it was people like him who were putting the stock at risk.

Defence counsel told the court that Randall was extremely remorseful, and accepted that there would be consequences. He was a beneficiary and cared for his elderly mother, however, and could not afford to pay a fine.

The Crown submitted that the starting point for a fine should be $2000, with Randall having displayed total disregard for the regulations.

The maximum penalties for possessing excess and undersized paua are fines of $20,000 and $10,000 respectively, and/or a community-based sentence.