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Busy Month For Christchurch Mfish Compliance Staff

31 January 2006

Busy Month For Christchurch Mfish Compliance Staff

Christchurch Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) staff have been kept busy over the month of January dealing with a number of paua thieves, mainly in the Lyttelton Harbour area. Fishery Officers apprehended nine groups of people taking paua on separate occasions over the month, with the largest apprehension being 220 paua. In total these groups took over 850 paua, the majority of which were under the legal size limit (125mm).

The poachers took paua from the Godley Heads, Purau and Camp Bay areas and public support assisted Fishery Officers in apprehending these offenders.

Fishery Officers also recently apprehended two men in possession of approximately 1,500 cockles taken from the Heathcote Estuary.

Follow up enquiries relating to all these matters are currently under way and once completed will result in a number of people being prosecuted or receiving infringement notices for less serious offending.

Charges to be laid will range from infringement notices, where quantities taken do not exceed three times the daily limit (10 paua per day), to more serious charges of possession and taking both excess and undersize paua. Fines could be as high as $250,000, for Fisheries Act charges as well as forfeiture of vehicles used in the offending.

Christchurch MFish staff are disturbed at the illegal activity in these areas but are pleased at public support that has led to apprehension of these offenders. Christchurch Investigation Manager, John Slaughter, says he is concerned at the illegal activity in these areas. “Paua poaching near Christchurch has been largely self-enforced through public presence. Recent trends however suggest that poachers are more blatant in their efforts targeting easily accessible paua,” he says.

“We have also discovered significant quantities of empty paua shell amongst the rocks. This evidence of further offending means we will continue to concentrate patrols in these areas”.

The recent increase in Fishery Officer numbers in the Christchurch office has assisted in apprehending and dealing with illegal activity, Mr Slaughter added. More Fishery Officers together with a developed Investigation team has resulted in our achieving better response time to reported incidents and extended our ability to patrol.

Mr Slaughter praised members of the public who saw and reported offending. “Prompt information by the public helps us catch more poachers and assists us target trouble spots. Any suspicious activity can be reported to us and we encourage people to use the free phone line” (0800 4POACHER 0800 47622437).

ENDS

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