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Budget 2005: $11m crackdown on paua poachers

Budget 2005 $11m crackdown on paua and lobster poachers Creation of new covert Special Tactics team

Poachers and black-market fishing operations are the target of an $11.6million crackdown over the next four years contained in Budget 2005, Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope announced today.

This includes $2.9m (GST excl) of operational funding in the coming year to create a Special Tactics team for covert operations. This will be achieved by employing up to 18 staff in 2005/06 with provision for an additional 4 staff in 2006/07 dedicated to the poaching and black-market initiative.

Capital funding of $375,000 (GST excl) has been allocated for the purchase of up to 5 vehicles and for specialist surveillance equipment.

This initiative will see the development of a major new multi-agency approach to target black market and poaching activities by: creating and equipping a Special Tactics team for covert operations increasing MFish analytical and investigative staff trialing a detector dog programme with MAF training Customs and AVSEC staff in identification and handling of illegal fish products

Mr Benson-Pope says improving the protection of the paua and rock lobster fisheries and catching fish thieves was a top priority. The Ministry will be introducing a range of innovative poaching and black market deterrence and apprehension strategies to tackle increasingly sophisticated and well organised illegal fishing.

"Paua and rock lobster stocks are under severe threat from poaching in many areas, particularly near population centres," says Mr Benson-Pope. "Organised crime is increasingly involved and enforcement operations need to be increasingly sophisticated to track and successfully prosecute poachers.

"This significant extra funding to be provided over four years for fisheries enforcement will better enable the Ministry of Fisheries to catch poachers and counter the illegal seafood trade."

Mr Benson-Pope says these strategies will be supported by an improved intelligence and analytical capability, and by strategically placed teams of enforcement personnel.

"The Ministry will be capable of executing enforcement operations on a much wider scale than is currently possible and will be working collaboratively with other government agencies," said Mr Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says the new funding will continue the development of capacity at what he called the 'high-end' of enforcement, without any change for fisheries officers focused on other local priorities and strategies.

There has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of Fisheries compliance staff since 1999 reflecting the government's commitment to protecting our fisheries. Fisheries enforcement, a core Ministry activity, received a 15 per cent increase in funding between 2003 and 2004, bringing to $24million the annual spend on enforcement.

The Ministry of Fisheries has a prosecution success rate of around 90 per cent.

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