A Tauranga company has been fined $30,000 for illegally receiving 116kg of black market minced paua - an estimated "green weight" of 600kg.
The company, D. Lish Ltd, together with Hira Cyril Noble, Luana Maree Noble and Lee Rhona Wells, were sentenced in Tauranga District Court on April 21.
Hira and Luana Noble each pleaded guilty to a charge of obtaining a benefit by receiving fish. Wells and Anthony Karauria Jackson, who will be sentenced later this month, both pleaded guilty to charges of selling paua and kina illegally.
Hira Noble has previously been sentenced for delivering illegally-caught snapper.
In his sentencing notes, Judge Thomas Ingram said Jackson had decided there was money to be made from illegally taking shellfish and kina and providing this to Hira and Luana Noble and their company.
"The quantities involved are substantial," Judge Ingram said. "The green weight is something in the order of 600-plus kg.
"To put that in perspective, it is pretty clear that the total quantities taken are more than any legal operator took from the fisheries region and it represents something in the order of one-third of the allowable catch from the region."
Judge Ingram said he was a diver and it did not sit well with him that people were taking that amount of fish illegally as it was almost impossible to find a legal paua in this district.
He said he had received letters from people and organisations directly affected by the illegal sales, including from Te Patuwai Tribal Committee, Tauranga Moana Iwi Customary Fisheries Trust and the trustees of the Motiti Reservation.
These organisations strongly expressed their anger at the actions of the defendants.
Judge Ingram said Hira and Luana Noble and Wells had all done good work for the community, but that had to be tempered by the roles each played in the offending.
"I need to take into account the effect of this offending. The victim, in this case, is the New Zealand public," Judge Ingram said.
Hira and Luana Noble had each offered to pay $5000 in costs.
He said an appropriate fine for the company would be around $75,000 but after looking at the provided financial material, he accepted the company would collapse and put some people out of work, which was not in the public interest. $30,000 was the maximum sum that could reasonably be paid without jeopardising the company.
Hira and Luana Noble were each sentenced to 12 months' home detention.
Wells was convicted and sentenced to 200 hours' community work.
". . . If I see any of you again, it will be into prison straight away," Judge Ingram said.
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