A 48-year-old Porirua man caught with more than 90 times the legal limit of paua has been sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Pele Pele Lemalu was sentenced in the Wellington District Court yesterday after he was caught by fishery officers in two separate paua poaching incidents.

In February this year, Mr Lemalu was caught at Makara Beach, on Wellington southwest coast, with Aaron Karatiana collecting paua. According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, fishery officers found 635 shucked paua and five paua still in their shells. Of the 640 paua taken, 117 were undersized. Karatiana was sentenced in September to four months' home detention.

In the second incident, Lemalu was caught in June at Pukerua Bay, north of Wellington, with Neru Kome taking paua from an area where only handlines are permitted. The men had been night diving with a dive torch and were stopped by fishery officers in their vehicle around midnight.


Upon inspection of the vehicle, 324 paua were found, all of which were undersize. Mr Kome was sentenced in August 2012, to three months and three weeks home detention.

Lemalu had intended to sell his catch in both cases.

Ministry for Primary Industries Wellington District compliance manager Mike Green hoped the sentence would be a deterrent to others.

"This sentence shows that you can receive prison time for committing serious fisheries offences," Mr Green said.

"Poachers not only risk fish stocks but they are stealing from their communities and making it harder for compliant recreational fishers to enjoy fishing activities by taking more than their legal entitlement and benefitting from it."

Under the Fisheries Act 1996, the maximum penalty for selling a recreational catch to obtain a benefit is five years' imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.

The national paua limit is ten paua per person per day, and paua must be a minimum of 125 millimetres (except for in some parts of the Taranaki region).

- nzherald.co.nz