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Beneficiary imprisoned for selling fish illegally

9 March 2006

Wairoa beneficiary imprisoned for selling fish illegally

A 53-year old Wairoa beneficiary has been sentenced to three months imprisonment for serious breaches of the Fisheries Act following a Ministry of Fisheries operation in Wairoa.

Robert Antoni Daleszak pleaded guilty and was convicted in the Wairoa District Court of an indictable offence for obtaining a benefit by knowingly selling fish other than in accordance with the Fisheries Act. Along with the prison sentence, Daleszak’s $60,000 Senator vessel and $15,000 vehicle were forfeited to the Crown.

In June 2005, a Fishery Officer was covertly deployed in Wairoa, where after having made earlier contact with Daleszak, purchased a quantity of moki and rock lobster for $450. The Fishery Officer was told by Daleszak at their first meeting that he had to be careful, as he had been busted 12 months earlier by the Ministry of Fisheries and had been infringed $1000.

The operation was terminated in August with a search of Daleszak’s address where a quantity of fishing gear, including 14 set nets, six long lines and several containers of frozen pre-cut bait was found. Also located at the address was some documentation indicating that Daleszak had a network of local Wairoa people purchasing his unlawfully taken fish.

Subsequent enquiries by Fishery Officers confirmed that a number of local Wairoa residents had been purchasing varying quantities of Moki, Snapper, Gurnard, Kahawai and Rock Lobster and were paying anywhere between $10 to $260 cash per transaction. The sales had been occurring as often as twice a week and the Ministry believes this illegal activity had been taking place for a number of years.

Doug Rishworth, counsel for Daleszak, submitted that it was low level offending. However, Fisheries Prosecutor Morgan Dunn described it as a large commercial operation.

Judge Tony Adeane said the cumulative effect of the offending took it out of the small scale category. He said that crayfish was a highly valuable species and very expensive licensing was required to take over and above amateur limits, which Daleszak had clearly been doing.

Judge Aneane gave Daleszak credit for his early guilty plea in sentencing him to three months imprisonment.

Napier District Compliance Manager Ray McKay said that the operation had been very successful and he hoped that the penalty imposed by the Court would be a suitable deterrent to any other fishers selling on the black market.

Mr McKay said that Daleszak was conducting an illegal fishing business in the Wairoa area on a scale similar to other commercial fishers on the East Coast. The only difference was that the legitimate operators were required to have catch entitlements, fishing permits, and registrations, and were required to report their catches to the Ministry of Fisheries.

Mr McKay said he hoped that the message delivered to Daleszak would also be taken onboard by individuals who purchased unlawfully taken fish, as they themselves were committing breaches of Fisheries legislation by purchasing from unlawful sources. The public were required to purchase fish from licensed fish receivers or dealers in fish.

He said it was because of the damage illegal fishing operations were having on sustainability that a five-year term of imprisonment or a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, had been introduced in 2004 to provide a suitable deterrent for serious poaching black-market offending.

ENDS

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