Thieves usually strip boats, not steal them.

A Tauranga man has been left baffled and angry at the "bizarre" theft of his commercial fishing boat - a crime which could cost him tens of thousands of dollars.

Although the Rena oil spill stopped Mike Antrobus fishing for several months last year, damage from the disaster couldn't compare to the disappearance of his 10.4m gill-netting vessel Star Trek from its moorings in Mt Maunganui's Pilot Bay this week.

He had been in the process of gaining a safe ship management certificate and insuring the boat. Its loss could cost him as much as $65,000.

One of a handful of private commercial fishermen operating from Tauranga, Mr Antrobus has worked the locally well-known vessel for almost a decade.


He bought it two years ago and was still paying it off when a local noticed it gone early on Tuesday morning.

Tauranga police have since received a report of the Carey-style, turquoise-coloured vessel leaving Tauranga Harbour the following day.

While his vessel and many others in the bay have been targeted by thieves, he knew of none that had been taken.

"And certainly not a commercial boat. You just don't steal them. I've talked to quite a few of the boat owners here and they're all saying it's quite a concern."

Whoever took the boat would probably have gained entry by smashing a window - and would have had the boating knowledge to operate it. The Star Trek had enough fuel to go about 500 nautical miles, and Mr Antrobus has notified fishing companies and marinas across the coast.

There are about 3500 inshore commercial fishing vessels nationwide, meaning they are at less risk of being stolen.

"They're relatively distinctive and hard to conceal - it's not as though they're like your Toyotas and Holdens that blend in," said Senior Sergeant Martin Paget of the police maritime unit.

Smaller craft were most commonly targeted and some larger boats such as launches and yachts been taken for sale in other countries, but commercial boats were seldom among them, he said.

In other cases vessels were simply stripped of electronic equipment.

"It might have been taken because there was something of value on there someone wanted, but until we find it, I could speculate as much as anyone else could."