Kaipara iwi are "disappointed" and "disgusted" after two people were caught with 138 snapper – nearly seven times the daily limit – over the weekend.
Fishery officers patrolling the Kaipara Harbour found 138 snapper aboard a recreational vessel at the Ruawai boat ramp with two people on board.
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.
Ministry for Primary Industries regional compliance manager Phil Tasker said all the fish were seized along with the boat they were fishing from.
"Everyone is entitled to catch a feed – but we would encourage all fishers to understand the rules. Don't take a gamble as you risk infringement tickets or potentially appearing before the courts," Tasker said.
The pair will likely be charged under the Fisheries Act.
People charged under the Fisheries Act can face up to five years in jail in serious cases, fines up to $250,000, or 100-350 hours of community work.
Usually, their boat or car will also be permanently seized.
West Coast iwi Te Uri o Hau chairman Antony Thompson the incident was disappointing for everyone involved.
"All keen boaties know what the catch limits are. It's not a hard thing."
Whatever you take, you should replace it twice according to the Te Uri o Hau kaitiaki, Thompson explained.
The offenders' behaviour was not sustainable for the fish population in the Kaipara Harbour, he said.
Thompson also regretted that as part of official procedures the fish were confiscated to be later destroyed which he labelled a "big loss" and "wastage".
Meanwhile, Te Roroa general manager Snow Tane voiced "disgust" over the fishing breach.
"I never understand what these people are thinking. [Ten] fish is more than enough to feed your whānau. The limit is there to ensure sustainability," Tane said.
The Kaipara Harbour is a nationally significant nursery for snapper and is believed to be the largest in New Zealand.
It's estimated that around 80 per cent of West Coast snapper come from the Kaipara Moana.
Experts have been monitoring detrimental changes in the snapper population for some time with fewer fish reaching maturity and population numbers significantly decreasing compared to historic accounts. However, stock assessments from 2021 indicate that the population was recovering.
The daily bag limit for Northland's east coast is seven snapper.