A Napier duo who illegally sold copious amounts of paua are said to have undermined the market.

Warren Peter Hutchings, 45, and Katie Marie Baker, 40, both unemployed and of Westshore, became the seventh and eighth people to be sentenced on charges related to the Ministry for Primary Industries' crackdown on black market fishing activity in Hawke's Bay and Mahia last year.

Hutchings was sentenced to seven months' home detention and 150 hours' community work on 17 charges of illegally selling fish.

Baker was sentenced to three months' home detention and 75 hours' community work on eight charges of aiding Hutchings to illegally sell fish and one charge of allowing premises to be used for illegally selling fish.


The pair had sold more than 500kg of paua (shell on) for $6225.

Both had earlier pleaded guilty in Napier District Court to all charges.

The pair were netted in the Ministry for Primary Industry's "Operation River" plan, which targeted black market activity in the Hawke's Bay/Mahia area, and used a special duties officer who became involved in the illegal trading of fish.

Paua Industry Council chairman Storm Stanley said the duo's actions in selling the paua for the price they did was undermining the market.

The quantity sold was probably worth twice or even three times more than what it was sold for.

"It costs the country a lot of money."

Mr Stanley said other people would have been aware of the illegal fishing going on, with the number of paua being sold.

"That's a really bad thing - if you see something like this, you really have to call the fish cops in, don't you?

"You can clean fisheries out and you can make localised paua extinct with that sort of behaviour," he said.

The chairman said he could not thank the Ministry for Primary Industries enough.

"It must be a hell of a hard thing to do and we all owe them a big vote of thanks."

The Ministry's central investigations manager, Steve Ham, said the pair did not give any reasons for their actions but they were both unemployed at the time, which he assumed could have been a motivating factor.

He said it was good to see the courts taking this type of offending seriously.

Operation River uncovered illegal trading in 1.8 tonnes of paua (shell on) and 600 crayfish.

It finished in September last year, when fishery officers executed 22 search warrants throughout the region.

Six other people have been dealt with by the court on charges of illegally selling fish as a result of Operation River.

They have received a range of sentences including prison, community detention, community work, $15,000 in fines and forfeiture of vehicles and cellphones, as well as one ban from all fishing activity.

Two people have been charged with illegally selling meat as part of Operation River and the investigation into related activity of a commercial fishing company is ongoing.

- The Ministry for Primary Industries encourages people to confidentially report suspicious fishing activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224).