Arrests after large illegal scallop haul
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