A joint Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and NZ Police checkpoint in Taranaki has uncovered a massive illegal haul of abalone, the majority of which were undersized.
MPI fishery officers and police stopped and inspected cars travelling on State Highway 45 near Okato last week to coincide with low spring tides – an event that traditionally sees large numbers of people take excessive amounts of shellfish, particularly abalone.
MPI spokesman Jason Howat said the south Taranaki coastline is an area of high risk of offending, in part, due to its isolation and vastness.
He says a number of people received warnings and infringements for exceeding the daily limit of abalone and kina and for taking undersized abalone.
“What was staggering was the discovery of four people with a total of 736 pāua [abalone], 703 of which were undersized. Investigations are continuing into this. A vehicle used in this offending was seized by fishery officers. The people involved will likely face serious fisheries charges,” said Mr Howat.
“This was an extremely disappointing discovery particularly given the fact that the Taranaki region has a lower minimum legal size catch limit (85mm) than the rest of the country. This is because the Taranaki pāua are naturally small and never reach the minimum legal size of 125mm that applies to the rest of the country.
“They also mature and breed at a much smaller size. So they are particularly vulnerable from the outset.”
Mr Howat said the two-day checkpoint also resulted in one set net being seized and a number of people being given infringements and fines totalling NZ$1,750 for taking undersized and excess pāua as well excess kina.
Fishery officers returned all of the shellfish to the sea.
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