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MFISH investigates Chatham Island fishers

MFISH investigates Chatham Island fishers

Fishery Officers from the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) in Dunedin are currently investigating three commercial fishers on the Chatham Islands for illegally using underwater breathing apparatus to take rock lobsters.

While some commercial fishing permits on the Chatham Islands allow rock lobsters to be taken by free diving, the use of underwater breathing apparatus was totally prohibited, said Murray Pridham, Dunedin MFish District Compliance Manager.

"The illegal use of underwater breathing apparatus on the Chathams has been a persistent problem for some time and has caused considerable conflict within the fishing industry on the Chathams," Mr Pridham said.

Fishery Officers carried out surveillance of the commercial fishers earlier in the year and obtained video footage of illegal activity. Consequently, the Ministry last week (25 May) seized three commercial fishing vessels, and is holding them at the Chatham Islands. The three fishers concerned are assisting Fishery Officers with their enquiries.

Mr Pridham said it was expected that charges would be laid against the fishers. If convicted, they could face maximum fines of $250,000, and forfeiture of their fishing vessels and illegal fishing equipment.

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