A Hastings man stole 483 undersized paua from a Central Hawke's Bay beach, then made a sharp U-turn when he saw a police car coming towards him.
Michael George Kaka of Flaxmere and Tama Gordon Tonihi of Havelock North appeared before Judge Peter Butler in the Hastings District Court last week, jointly charged with taking undersized paua and obstructing a fisheries officer.
On Friday February 16, 2018, Kaka and Tonihi were driving back from Blackhead Beach after a morning of illegal fishing.
Kaka, who was driving a Suzuki Grand Vitara with Tonihi as passenger, made a sharp U-turn and sped back to the beach when he spotted a police car driving towards them.
When they returned back to the track they were stopped by the officer who then carried out a fisheries inspection in which they found a bag of kina on the back seat and a large empty, but wet, fish bin in the boot, as well as wet diving equipment.
After they left the area, the police officer discovered fresh tyre tracks leading to a beach access track and discovered two wet sacks and a backpack filled with live paua.
"The paua appeared recently taken due to them being alive, wet, active and free from sand," according to the summary of facts.
The access point to the paua had been closely watched by the officer for more than half-an-hour and Kaka's vehicle was the only one he'd seen passing through the area.
The sacks contained a total 485 paua, with 483 of them under the legal minimum length.
Kaka later told police that he didn't see the approaching police vehicle and said he'd headed back to the beach because he'd forgotten some of his diving equipment.
He admitted taking the kina, but denied any knowledge when it came to the three bags of paua.
When it was put to Tohini about dumping the paua back on the beach, he said "it could have happened" and that "he may have witnessed it".
He also denied taking any seafood and then claimed he had no knowledge about the three bags of paua.
Both men were sentenced to 300 hours of community work.