Opportunist thieves are plundering our coastline and selling fish for a quick buck while recreational fishers are the ones missing out.
Rock Lobster Industry Council executive officer Daryl Sykes said they suspected there was quite a major problem in Hawke's Bay with people taking rock lobster from traditionally customary and recreational fishing areas so the public would miss out.
The owner of Havelock North's Happy Dragon takeaway was convicted of having rock lobster and scampi without the documents to prove it came from a legitimate source.
The Hastings District Court on Tuesday heard how Chen had bought lobster off a man in the street for just $10 each.
Yong Xiao Chen, 35, was charged after the Ministry of Fisheries searched the takeaway bar and found rock lobster that had legs missing and 2.5kg of scampi and that Chen had failed to keep a record of rock lobster or scampi sold on the premises.
All purchases of seafood have to be made from a licensed seafood receiver who would have bought it from the commercial fisherman - this makes sure that all fish caught, bought and sold is legitimate.
To prove it has been bought through licensed dealers, receipts for all produce have to be kept and shown on request to fishery officers.
Ministry of Fisheries prosecutor Nicola Graham said the system was in place to prevent the sale of black-market fish.
She said that the discovery of the lobster and scampi at the takeaway bar was made during a routine inspection of the premises and Chen had told the officers a man sold him the lobster and the scampi had been a present from his sister.
Chen's lawyer Richard Stone said Chen had the lobster and scampi in there so him and his family could eat it if they got hungry at work.
Mr Stone presented a menu which he said showed that neither scampi or lobster were on the menu.
He said Chen wasn't aware that he needed to keep receipts for seafood and had only kept the ones that he had for tax purposes.
Judge Geoff Rae said it was important that fish sellers did not bypass the system.
Chen was fined $400 and order to pay $130 in relation to the charges.
Ministry of Finance compliance manager Ray McKay said the ministry prosecuted about five owners a year on similar charges and regularly inspected premises to check their seafood supplies.
"It is a deterrent for people getting fish from unlicensed sources and it cuts down on people taking fish they are not entitled to," he said.
Mr McKay said they rarely found the people who sold the seafood, although they were thought to be recreational fishermen selling their day's catch.