A suspected illegal fishing operation has been disturbed, thanks in part to the watchfulness of local Hawke's Bay residents.

Last week police and fisheries officers discovered sacks of undersized and shucked paua in a cave on the Central Hawke's Bay coast.

They uncovered sacks containing 39 undersized paua, and 160 shucked paua, also believed to be undersized.

Porangahau police Senior Constable John Singer said the kaimoana was found on Blackhead Beach during checks on vehicles, following reports from local residents of suspicious vehicles and activities.

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A vehicle had been stopped leaving the beach following reports that three people were seen carrying sacks believed to be full of seafood. Two people in the vehicle were spoken with and a third person was spoken with on Blackhead Beach.

Mr Singer said one person was arrested on matters unrelated to the recovery of the paua, which is now the subject of an investigation into what is believed to be a commercial operation.

The reports of suspicious activity coincide with a rise in farm and household thefts in the area.

In a separate event at Kairakau Beach, four people were spoken to and 97 paua were seized by staff. Ninety four of the paua were undersized.

Six undersized rock lobster were also seized. All four people spoken to face prosecution.

Mr Singer said with the recent good weather and clearing sea conditions, there has been an increase in illegal fishing on the coast.

- Police urge residents and beachgoers to report all suspicious activity to the Ministry of Primary Industries on 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.