One of the largest illegal hauls of snapper in Northland – where 138 were plucked from Kaipara's waters – has a local kaumātua keen to face the persistent problem.
Last week fishery officers patrolling the Kaipara Harbour discovered the catch, nearly seven times the daily limit, aboard a recreational vessel at the Ruawai boat ramp with two people on board. Both the boat and catch were seized.
An Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman said the illegal haul was one the largest in recent years in Northland and the men were likely to face charges under the Fisheries Act.
The daily catch limit per person for snapper is 10, with a minimum length of 27cm in the west coast area where they were fishing.
Mikaera Miru of the Tinopai Resource Management Unit, affiliated to Te Uri o Hau iwi, said some people just did not care how much or the size of snapper they caught despite being familiar with the rules.
He was keen for marae to discuss the possibility of undertaking fisheries compliance with the ministry's approval.
Miru said illegal fishing continued to be a problem.
"The kaitiaki from the local marae should be given statutory powers to check the catch. MPI can't do it alone. I've been thinking about the role kaitiaki can play around fisheries management but I think local marae need to talk among themselves before approaching MPI."
Last Christmas, Miru said carloads of fishermen turned up at the Tinopai jetty and were caught with undersized snapper.
They were believed to be from Auckland.
"Locals were unaware as they came in the middle of the night but two residents went down to the jetty and discovered they were cooking the snapper on the barbecue. The locals then put the message on social media."
Miru said the fishermen returned a few days later but this time, about 70 Tinopai residents went down and told them what they were doing was illegal. The visitors left and never returned.
"It was great to see the concern of the local community. I personally have taken people to task for netting off creeks which stops fish from escaping out into the ocean."
People charged under the Fisheries Act can face up to five years in jail in serious cases, fines up to $250,000, or 100 to 350 hours of community work.
Usually, their boat or vehicle will also be permanently seized.
The Kaipara Harbour is a nationally significant nursery for snapper and is believed to be the largest in New Zealand.
It's estimated that about 80 per cent of west coast snapper come from the Kaipara moana.
Suspicious fishing activity should be reported to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) or email email@example.com.