Two fishery officers reported being abused and then rammed by the driver of a commercial fishing vessel yesterday while retrieving illegally set crayfish pots in Tokomaru Bay, off the North Island's east coast.

The two officers were carrying out a routine pot-lifting patrol in their 5.9-metre vessel, Te Tiaki, when they were rammed twice by a 7.5-metre commercial crayfish vessel, said Ministry of Fisheries national operations manager Ross Thurston.

"Luckily there was no injury in this incident, but certainly if we come across this type of attitude and behaviour on the water, the full force of Fisheries, police and maritime law will be invoked," he told NZPA.

Such aggressive behaviour towards fishery officers was unusual from a commercial fisher.

"As a group, commercial fishers are compliant - it was out of the blue," he said.

The Te Tiaki was loaded with the illegal pots and due to return to shore to offload the gear at the time. The officers estimated that the commercial vessel had been travelling at between 15 and 20 knots immediately before it struck their boat.

The whole incident lasted up to 20 minutes, he said.

A man is due to appear in Gisborne District Court on Wednesday charged with assault with a fishing vessel.

The vessel had been seized, and the matter had also been reported to Maritime New Zealand.

- NZPA