Fishery officers pounce on illegal takes after surveillance

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SEIZED: Most of these 124 paua (above) seized by fisheries officers along Northland's west coast this week, were undersized and (right) some of the 500 mussels seized from seafood poachers in Northland. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED
SEIZED: Most of these 124 paua (above) seized by fisheries officers along Northland's west coast this week, were undersized and (right) some of the 500 mussels seized from seafood poachers in Northland. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Three Northland men face charges under the Fisheries Act after they were caught by fishery officers allegedly trying to hide a haul of paua in sand dunes on a remote bank in South Hokianga.

Ministry for Primary Industries district compliance manager Stephen Rudsdale said over the past few weeks, fishery officers and Northland police have conducted successful patrolling operations along the region's West Coast.

"In one incident, a group of men allegedly tried to conceal their catch under sand dunes in an area in Kawerua.

"Unfortunately for them, MPI officers were keeping a close watch the whole time and recovered a pack containing 124 paua, the majority of which were undersized," Mr Rudsdale said.

The daily catch limit for paua is 10 per person and there are clearly specified rules around undersized catch.

The minimum legal size is 125mm.

"In another recent incident, an all-terrain vehicle was seized at an MPI checkpoint after two men in the vehicle were allegedly found with more than 500 mussels. The daily limit for green-lipped mussels is 50 per gatherer in the Northland area," he said.

"These incidents should serve as a warning.

"We don't plan to reduce our efforts in this area. We know the areas where most offending occurs and we will be out there, catching people. There are specific rules around what can and can't be taken in terms of shellfish. We hear a lot of excuses and reasons for offending and ignorance will never be accepted as a valid reason."

Mr Rudsdale said If people are in doubt about the rules, they can visit the MPI Fisheries Northland Facebook page and ask any questions. "We are always happy to help," he said.

People can report poaching, suspicious, or illegal activity by calling 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24) or email poacher@mpi.govt.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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