Divers enjoying a dive inside the western section of the Kāpiti Marine Reserve have discovered a cray pot set illegally within the reserve.
The cray pot was in the same location as a set net found by the same divers last summer.
"It was disappointing that the thrill of seeing such a diversity and abundance of sea life was tempered by the discovery of illegal poaching in our nationally important reserve," said diver and Guardians of the Kāpiti Marine Reserve chairman Ben Knight.
"The pot appears to have been intentionally set by poachers with a tiny float spliced to the end of the rope which kept the pot line stealthily floating but not visible from the surface."
Ben is concerned the line could also present a hazard to other boat traffic as well as the marine life in the reserve as the pots were set without the surface floats required by fishing regulations.
"With this float set up, the cray pot is 100 per cent illegal even if used outside the reserve."
The Guardians trust is working with the Department of Conservation and local company Groundtruth to install a webcam that will overlook this section of the reserve, having already installed cameras in other locations.
"Getting the next webcam site up and running is a high priority as it will overlook this area of the reserve and help to deter this type of illegal fishing in future.
"While the cameras are good for monitoring and deterring illegal fishing, we also need a boat based at Kāpiti Island to support the compliance effort.
"With marine reserves protecting less than two per cent of our coastal waters, it's vital the compliance effort is well resourced and appropriately equipped to detect, deter and intercept illegal fishing within the reserve and wider marine area.
"Those who choose to fish the reserve like this are ripping all of us off and as a community of Guardians we must do everything we can to stop this illegal fishing activity in our nationally significant marine reserve."
Ben said the public can play a valuable role in keeping an eye out for illegal fishing and poaching, and encourages anyone who sees anything they think may be illegal to call 0800DOCHOT.
He also encourages anyone who is offered, or hears of any cheap seafood, to refrain from purchasing it, and to report it to 08004POACHER.