A former Christchurch restaurant owner has been fined $15,000 following an MPI undercover investigation into black market fish trading.
Derek Yee, a 57-year-old courier driver, acted as a middleman supplying crayfish and pāua to 2 Canterbury seafood restaurants.
Yee was supplied by a restaurant owner and another fisher and then on-sold the product to others.
He admitted the charge of dealing in fish otherwise in accordance with the Fisheries Act 1996 when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court.
Yee was fined $15,000, sentenced to 4 months community detention and 100 hours of community work. Upon conviction, his courier van and cell phone were forfeited.
Ministry for Primary Industries Investigations Manager South Region, John Gibson, says MPI planned the operation after becoming aware that pāua and rock lobster were being offered for sale on the black market to commercial outlets.
He says Yee had been inspected on many occasions by fishery officers when he owned and operated a restaurant and knew that buying and on-selling black market fish was illegal.
"The sale of recreational catch means there is no limit as to what is taken and no effort is made to assist in maintaining the fishery. It takes away from what is a national and community owned resource," says Mr Gibson.
"This sort of offending hurts all of New Zealand."
Mr Gibson says the Fisheries Act has established a combination of controls designed to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks for future generations.
"These controls are necessary to protect fisheries from being overfished and destroyed.
"The sentencing judge made the comment that people who get involved in blackmarket seafood would face substantial fines and deprivation of their liberty in one form or another."
MPI encourages people to report any suspicious fishing activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are confidential.