Nearly all 30 people stopped by fisheries officers in an operation on the Far North's west coast were found to be breaching the rules - and most of them were locals.
The fisheries compliance patrol at Kawerua and Tauroa on Northland's West Coast yielded disappointing results, with non-compliance noted for almost 100 percent of inspections. Earlier this month, a combined team of North Shore and Northland fisheries officers converged on Kawerua and Tauroa, areas well known for high levels of offending.
Team manager fisheries compliance for the Upper North Island, Steve Rudsdale, says the patrol conducted inspections to assess compliance with fishing rules.
"The most disappointing aspect of the patrol was that of the 30 or so people we came across, almost all were not complying with the rules," Mr Rudsdale said.
"This area is a well-known spot for high levels of offending and offenders are often experienced poachers. More often than not, they are also street-wise and uncooperative."
He said most of the people caught in the area were locals, which was even more disappointing, and there was clear evidence their actions were depleting fisheries resources for all, with paua the main target.
A local man was found in possession of 63 paua, only five of which were of legal size. Another local was found with 49 paua, with only two of legal size. The paua, the second man's diving gear and a quad bike were seized on the spot. Many others spoken to during the patrol received warnings and/or fines ranging from $250 to $500.
"MPI is serious about ensuring that people who break the rules face the appropriate penalties. We will not tolerate any level of offending," Mr Rudsdale said.
"Precious fisheries resources like paua need to be safeguarded to ensure their sustainability as a species as well as for future generations."
In the past week, a number of Northland people appeared before the courts on fisheries offences. Dwayne Rawiri was sentenced to five months home detention and 200 hours community work for gathering and selling paua. Karena Tetai who was ordered to complete 100 hours community work and banned from fishing for three years for obstructing a fisheries officer.
Shane Wikaira was ordered to do 350 hours community work for possessing excess and undersized paua. All three men are regulars at Kawerua and well-known to fisheries officers, he said.
But Mr Rudsdale said many of the offences poachers are prosecuted for do not carry a term of imprisonment as a penalty.
"I think 350 hours community work is a fair chunk of people's time. Many are not in a position to pay a fine," he said.
MPI would continue to put people before the courts for breaching fisheries rules and it was up to the Government to impose tougher penalties fore the courts to give out.