A tip off from a concerned member of the public that led to the seizure of nearly 500 undersized poached paua at a Central Hawke's Bay beach is a reminder to beachgoers to stay vigilant, police say.
A haul of nearly 485 dumped paua was seized at Blackhead Beach, near Porangahau earlier this month. After being alerted by local police, MPI Fishery Officers had taken possession of three sacks with all but two paua undersized.
The limit for paua is 10 a person at a minimum size of 125mm.
Yesterday Porangahau Senior Constable John Singer said if police had not been alerted to the poaching by a public tip off, the culprits would not have been caught.
After receiving the information he arrived at the beach in time to intercept the poachers.
A vehicle was seized and a number of people have been spoken to. MPI Fisheries staff were still investigating, but Mr Singer said they believed there was "another carload" still missing.
The capture of the poached paua was a good reminder for the public to stay vigilant, he said, "if they have doubts, people should trust their instincts and phone fisheries".
Poaching was becoming more frequent in the area. "That's why we rely on people reporting anything," Mr Singer said.
The coastal area near Porangahau is often targeted for such illegal activity. The area near Blackhead Beach is said to be popular with poachers as there are high stock levels there, and aside from a small settlement near the beach, the area is also relatively isolated.
This was echoed by Department of Conservation ranger Rod Hansen, who supervises the nearby Te Angiangi Marine Reserve where late last year, seven people were caught in as many weeks for suspected illegal fishing inside the reserve.
He urged people to keep their eyes peeled and if they noticed suspicious activity inside the reserve - between Blackhead and Aramoana - to call 0800 DOC HOT.
Even when people weren't around there were still eyes on popular poaching spots, with surveillance cameras set up to monitor any illegal activity.
Over summer, he said, there hadn't been many poachers in the reserve as sea conditions had been too rough.
In October four men were caught at Parimahu (Black Head Pt) with 366 paua. All but two were undersized - one measured just 45mm.
Maximum penalties for unlawful hunting under the Wild Animal Control Act were fines of up to $100,000 and up to two years in prison.
To report suspected illegal fishing activity, such as poaching and illegal trade of seafood, call MPI on 0800 476 224.