Poachers to prison
Two prison terms have been handed out and another is likely for members of a paua poaching group caught taking excessive numbers of the shellfish from local waters.
The Ministry of Fisheries last week announced the conclusion of court proceedings against nine paua poachers.
They were apprehended in September 2009 three kilometres south of Titahi Bay.
Fishery officers found 1182 paua in 10 white sacks hidden in various locations along the coast and in a camp set up by the offenders.
‘‘ This was offending of a very serious nature. Not only were the numbers of paua far in excess of the catch limit, most of them were undersize,’’ said ministry field operations manager Mike Green.
Of the 700 paua in their shells, 587 were less than 125 millimetres in size and 217 of the 482 shucked paua weighed less than 80 grams, so were deemed to have come from shells under 125 millimetres.
‘‘This sort of behaviour is incredibly damaging to the local paua fishery and we won’t tolerate it,’’ he said.
Six of the offenders have been sentenced, two to terms of imprisonment, one to community detention and the others to home detention.
The most recent district court proceedings dealt with the other three defendants. They were convicted and remanded for sentencing on November 12.
‘‘One of the defendants is particularly well-known to us,’’ Mr Green said. ‘‘He was also found guilty of obstructing a fishery officer. He was denied bail [and] will remain in custody until sentencing.’’
The Ministry of Fisheries encourages members of the public to call 0800 476 224 if they see anything suspicious at fishing spots.