A sizeable catch of illegally caught snapper hidden under the floorboards of a recreational boat may see three South Auckland men facing serious fisheries charges.
Last week, on Anzac Day, Ministry for Primary Industries honorary fishery officers and compliance officers were conducting routine inspections of fishing boats at the Kawakawa Bay boat ramp.
The fishery officers spoke to three fishermen in an aluminium boat after it returned to the ramp. The fishermen claimed to have only caught 13 snapper and eight kahawhai, which they showed to the officers.
On further inspection of the boat, a further 221 snapper were found hidden under the floor boards of that boat. Of the 234 snapper in total, 114 were found to be undersize.
The boat, trailer and car were seized by MPI compliance officers and the three men could each face charges under the Fisheries Act 1996, with a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to NZ$250,000 (US$215,000).
MPI North Harbour district compliance manager Michael Simmons said: “The blatant disregard for both the size and quantity of illegal fish taken by these fishermen places a huge strain on the survival of the snapper fishery. The honorary fishery officers involved did a great job to detect this offending.”
Also at Kawakawa Bay on the same day, inspectors found four shellfish gathers in possession of 1,016 cockles— the total cockles allowed per day is 50 per person.
A bag containing 340 cockles was hidden under the seat of their car. This group also had their car seized, and the individuals are likely to face charges.
“This is another demonstration of blatant disregard for the rules designed to ensure sustainability of the shellfish, for all to enjoy in years to come,” Simmons said, adding that the MPI relies on the public to notify officers in many cases.