Large number of people caught in black market seafood operation

Date:

Media contact: MPI media team

Telephone: 029 894 0328

Email: media@mpi.govt.nz

An Auckland man has landed a bill for what’s possibly the most expensive meal of pāua ever, after being fined $8,500 for buying the shellfish on the black market.

The man was one of 6 people who were sentenced in the Manukau District Court on Friday over Fisheries Act offences. They were all convicted and fined with the fines ranging from between $1,500 and $8,500.

A person considered the lead diver, who illegally took almost half a tonne of pāua, was sentenced to 8 months home detention and 150 hours community service. His associate was fined $3,000 plus court costs of $130.

The Ministry for Primary Industries started investigating in January 2015 when the initial focus was centred on the activities of a Northland based kina poaching operation.

MPI’s Team Manager Compliance Investigations Northern Region, Simon Anderson, says 2 separate operations began after inquiries revealed the existence of an associated group of offenders, operating out of the Auckland/ Coromandel area, who were involved in the illegal take and sale of pāua.

"We subsequently exercised search warrants across the Auckland region focussing on the alleged divers and the buyers of illegally taken pāua," says Mr Anderson.

"Large quantities of pāua were seized along with cell phones belonging to the alleged offenders.

"Charges were laid in early 2016 with all offenders pleading guilty.

"The operation will be concluded when 3 other people associated with the offending are dealt with by the courts in the near future".

Mr Anderson says there’s no excuse for this sort of offending.

"If everybody went around taking more than their fair share of a resource such as pāua, there would be nothing left for future generations.

"Pāua is enjoyed by a great many New Zealanders. It is a valuable resource and its sustainability will become an issue if this sort of irresponsible and illegal behaviour continues.

"Our investigators and compliance offices did an outstanding job in detecting this offending and ensured those responsible and involved in what was an elaborate operation, were held to account."

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