Ar­rests af­ter large il­le­gal scal­lop haul

The Bay Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTER

Two divers have been busted with a ’’mas­sive’’ il­le­gal scal­lop haul.

The pair were caught in North­land with 565 scal­lops in to­tal, more than 14 times the 20-scal­lop­per-diver daily limit.

Fish­eries of­fi­cers say they were tipped off that two men were tak­ing vast amounts of the shell­fish in Whangarei Heads by a con­cerned mem­ber of the pub­lic in Fe­bru­ary.

A fish­eries of­fi­cer made a trip to the beach and found one of the divers emerg­ing from the wa­ter car­ry­ing a catch-bag of 19 scal­lops, 52 scal­lops dumped on the wa­ter’s edge and a catch-bag con­tain­ing an­other 176 scal­lops in the wa­ter.

‘‘Dur­ing the in­spec­tion, one of our of­fi­cers was al­legedly threat­ened by one of the divers,’’ says Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries spokesman, Stephen Ruds­dale.

‘‘Our of­fi­cers took the men’s details and in­formed them they would be fac­ing charges.’’

But that wasn’t the last the of­fi­cer would see of the pair; later that day an­other mem­ber of the pub­lic re­ported two men act­ing sus­pi­ciously and ap­par­ently search­ing for some­thing in the wa­ter in the same area.

The pair drove off to­wards Whangarei shortly af­ter, but of­fi­cers stopped the ve­hi­cle and recog­nised them as the same two they had al­ready dealt with.

The of­fi­cers found two catch­bags con­tain­ing a to­tal of 318 scal­lops in the back of the ve­hi­cle.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, dur­ing the in­spec­tion, one of the men who was wear­ing gang in­signia, be­came ag­gres­sive and threat­ened the of­fi­cers. Po­lice were then called,’’ says Ruds­dale.

‘‘This is dis­ap­point­ing.

‘‘What peo­ple need to re­mem­ber is that this sort of ex­ces­sive take threat­ens the sus­tain­abil­ity of the scal­lop fish­ery and im­pacts the num­ber of scal­lops avail­able to other peo­ple.

‘‘This was a pre­med­i­tated, de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to break the rules. MPI would like to thank the mem­bers of the pub­lic who re­ported the in­ci­dents. Their quick-think­ing has en­abled us to take ac­tion.’’

Two men, aged 30 and 38, face charges un­der the Fish­eries Act for pos­sess­ing ex­cess and un­der­sized scal­lops and threat­en­ing and ob­struct­ing fish­eries of­fi­cers.

A 1997 Toy­ota Camry sta­tion wagon and dive gear was seized.

Ruds­dale says some of the scal­lops were re­turned to the sea, but those that had been out of the wa­ter for at least six hours were dis­posed of for health rea­sons. ex­tremely

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