Paua industry wants stiffer penalties for thieves

The paua industry has called for tougher penalities for "fish thieves", after a huge paua bust in Southern Wairarapa last week.

The chairman of the Paua Industry Council, Ed Arron, said the bust highlighted the need for appropriate deterrent sentencing.

"The public will no longer tolerate the judiciary handing out wet bus tickets to fish thieves," Mr Arron said.

A patrol early Friday night uncovered a number of sacks of recently gathered paua concealed at Palliser Bay's Ngawi beach.

Ministry of Fisheries staff stopped two men that evening as they were leaving the beach with the paua.

The men had more than 500 paua - 212 of which were undersize.

The minimum legal size for paua is 125mm and the daily quota for recreational fishers is 10 per person.

Mr Arron said the paua industry would work closely with Ministry of Fisheries prosecutors to ensure the court had all the facts around the biological and economic impact of the theft of such a public resource.

"Nearly half of the plundered paua were undersize and these are the breeding fish that sustain the fishery for the future," he said.

Despite a 10-point initiative which the ministry was working with the paua industry on to fight poaching, he said progress had been frustratingly slow.

Mr Arron said comments by Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton in the wake of the seizure by officials would hopefully re-energise the implementation of the initiatives to eliminate paua poaching.

Mr Anderton had called for stiffer penalties for fish thieves while opening last week's Seafood Industry conference in Wellington.

- NZPA

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