A Nelson man has admitted gathering paua from the Kaikōura coast in a breach of the shellfish-gathering ban imposed after the region was hit by a major earthquake in 2016.
The Ministry for Primary Industries said today that Neville Allistar Moka, 39, pleaded guilty to one charge of fishing in an area closed under emergency measures.
In the Nelson District Court, he was fined $1500 and ordered to pay court costs of $130.
Ministry spokesman Howard Reid said Moka's offending took place between June and July last year while he was working on the Kaikōura coast.
A painter, Moka had admitted gathering shellfish on one occasion from the sea opposite his accommodation.
"He took paua from within the closed area and claimed he didn't know a ban applied to where he was gathering from," said Reid.
"That's despite there being a prominent sign almost directly across the road from his accommodation.
"The sign clearly stated that the fishery was closed - the sentencing judge found it difficult to accept Mr Moka's explanation."
Another Nelson painter who was sharing accommodation with Moka, 49-year-old Benjamin Beale, was earlier fined the same sum and ordered to pay $130 court costs after pleading guilty to the same charge.
MPI said Beale claimed he took the paua at night and didn't see the sign. The sentencing judge dismissed this as unbelievable.
Reid said both men's offending was disappointing.
"The Kaikōura earthquake had a devastating effect on the paua fishery, with tens of thousands of paua dying and large areas of productive habitat being lost.
"The fishery still hasn't recovered from the severe impacts of the quake. In these circumstances, any harvest of paua has a huge negative impact on sustainability."
MPI said the Kaikōura paua fishery has great significance to the local community, iwi, and recreational and commercial fishers, who are represented by Te Korowai, an organisation that works with the ministry to promote sustainable fisheries management.
Te Korowai chairman Larnce Wichman said he was disappointed by the breaches of the closure.
"It's sad to see people taking advantage of our already broken resource. We all have to work together to ensure the future recovery of our fishery - the key to this is collective responsibility.
"We appreciate the work of MPI compliance staff who, through regular patrols and persistence, are holding to account those who decide to threaten the recovery of this species which is a valuable taonga for our community."
The area from Conway River to Marfells Beach remains closed indefinitely to the taking of paua, both recreationally and commercially.