Pillaging of undersize paua condemned

By Kristin Edge

SEIZED: The illegal paua returned to the sea after a two-hour patrol by fisheries officers at Ahipara. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
SEIZED: The illegal paua returned to the sea after a two-hour patrol by fisheries officers at Ahipara. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The pillaging of undersize paua in large quantities from Northland's coastline has to stop with communities taking a stand and reporting those plundering the ocean, a Far North woman says.

Rachele Mathews, of Kaitaia, was so sickened by the latest operation by fisheries officers which saw hundreds of undersize paua seized from those collecting from rocks near Ahipara, she took to Facebook to vent her outrage.

The post has gained momentum and support from around New Zealand with 6800 like, 1502 shares and 1070 people have commented.

Fishery officers conducted a two-hour patrol at Ahipara earlier this month. From that patrol, and two others during a two week period, about 250 paua were seized, all of which were less than the minimum legal size of 125mm. A number of infringement notices were issued, and follow-up inquiries could lead to prosecutions.

The people caught in breach of the fisheries legislation were all locals from Ahipara, Kaitaia and surrounding areas.

Mrs Mathews, who grew up at Whangapae and has spent her life by the ocean gathering seafood, said three of those nabbed were her family members.

"I'm sick and tired of people blaming outsiders ... it's our own people! All you are doing is stealing from our mokopuna because there will be nothing left for them and it will be up to them to try to bring the paua back from extinction," she posted on Facebook.

"Take a good look people because if you don't wake up now then you might as well kiss our kai moana goodbye."

She said some of the plundered seafood was being sold locally but believed some was being sold in Auckland.

"And if you are buying them from these mongrels then you are just as much to blame.

"Ten per person per day is plenty to feed a whanau. And it's not about playing by the white man law. You all want to moan about the fishery officers ... yet you'll sit back as quiet as a mouse when there's a kuzzy selling off paua."

She said it was sad to think in 20 years' time people might look at an empty paua shell and only wonder what it tasted like.

To stem the plundering people needed to report suspicious behaviour, record vehicle licence plate numbers and ring fisheries officers immediately, Mrs Mathews said.

"We can't just keep turning a blind eye and hope they learn.

"If they are named and shamed by their own people. Going back to the marae is more embarrassing than any fine."

Education was needed about the life cycle of paua so people knew how long it took for the shellfish to grow to a legal length.

MPI District Compliance Manager for Northland Steve Rudsdale said with continued breaches on a regular basis, the ministry had severe concerns for the paua fishery in the area.

"The continued blatant disregard for the fisheries legislation shown by the local people is hugely disappointing, behaviour like this threatens the sustainability of the resource for future generations."

- Northern Advocate

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