A long-running "large scale" black market crayfish ring, believed to have sold hauls in the Bay of Plenty, has been shut down.

Ministry for Primary Industries has announced its fishery officers have shut down the ring, it said was run by an extended family. At least seven people could face prosecution, the ministry said.

More than 25 fishery officers, helped by police, used five search warrants on Friday and Thursday, specifically in Tolaga Bay, Rotorua and Kawerau.

A total of 169 crayfish were seized, most of which were undersized, as well as kina, two vehicles, diving gear and a boat, the ministry said.


Fisheries compliance team manager Adam Plumstead said the family had been taking and selling large numbers of crayfish in breach of the Fisheries Act.

Plumstead said they had "regular hauls of sometimes up to 250 crayfish from the Tolaga Bay area that were then distributed around Kawerau and Rotorua".

He said it was "extremely disappointing" with "total disregard for the sustainability of the crayfish fishery, which is already under threat".

"It is ongoing, blatant theft motivated by financial gain. It is theft from other members of the community and future generations.

"Unfortunately, there is a market of willing buyers out there, which serves to assist this type of activity. Those people are being spoken to and will potentially face charges as well. Without them this type of offending could not exist."