Fishy feeding behaviour of the illegal kind has been discovered at the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve.
An Auckland couple were nabbed feeding bread to fish in Rikoriko Cave and then in nearby Maroro Bay at the weekend.
Whangarei-based Department of Conservation rangers Marie Jordan and Miriam Ritchie were carrying out a routine patrol of the islands at dusk, near the Pinnacles, when they received a call reporting people feeding fish in Rikoriko Cave. The rangers caught up with the culprits in Maroro Bay still feeding fish bread about 15 minutes later.
Ms Jordan said the two people from Auckland were surprised to hear what they were doing was illegal. They had just wanted to show their son, who was also on board, the big fish that came to the surface. It was his first time at the Knights. "The beauty of the Poor Knights is that you only have to wait around for 10 minutes or so and you will see big schools of fish swimming along the surface without having to entice them with food," Ms Jordan said. "The Poor Knights is a world-class reserve and by feeding the fish we are altering their natural behaviour."
Feeding fish in a marine reserve was "wilfully interfering and disturbing marine life" under the Marine Reserves Act, Ms Jordan pointed out. DoC had learned that feeding the fish could lead to unnatural and aggressive behaviour.
There had been several reports of illegal fishing in the reserve from local users at times of the day when dive charter boat operators, who keep a wary eye out, were not around.
DoC will continue patrols of the reserve.
Anyone who sees illegal activity is asked to phone 0800 DOC HOT and report it.