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Poacher Cam Effective Tool in Battle Against Trout Thieves

Media release from Eastern Fish & Game

Poacher Cam Effective Tool in Battle Against Trout Thieves

By Fish & Game Public Awareness Advisor Grant Dyson

Rob a service station and you'd expect to be filmed by a security camera – but who would think trout poachers would find themselves on ‘Poacher Cam?’

That’s my term for the ‘covert surveillance’ cameras Fish & Game Officers are using as one of their weapons against poachers.

As a part-time Public Awareness Advisor for Fish & Game based at the Ngongotaha hatchery, I figured it was time to visit one of the camera sites with the Officer in charge of compliance in the Eastern Region, Anthony Van Dorp.

He’d mentioned cameras sited at important spawning streams but frankly, I was a little sceptical. Wouldn’t a camera housing sitting in a tree say, be pretty easy to spot?

We arrived at the bush-shrouded stream that feeds into a lake I’m not allowed to name. At least four good-sized spawning trout were scudding around a fairly shallow clear pool which presented easy pickings, for even a reasonably single-minded poacher. This secluded trout pool was all things considered, poacher heaven.

We stood on the bank at a grassy spot providing easy access to the water, and Anthony challenged me to spot the Poacher Cam.

After some minutes of intently scanning the fairly dense vegetation, which included native bush, and ponga fronds, I was forced to give up. There were several trees overhanging the trout pool which provided perfect mounting sites – but there was no trace of a camera. In reality, I could have spent half an hour probing the vegetation and still wouldn’t have found the electronic observer.

I was taken aback when Anthony showed me the camera and just how incredibly well it was hidden. Imagine something not a lot bigger than a big Cuban cigar, wearing its own little camouflage jacket. The Poacher Cam blended into the background with all the panache of a stick insect on a manuka tree (not that it was on a manuka tree, you understand).

The slimline camera is powered by a battery box which is just as well camouflaged, sitting nearby. Again, unless you were centimetres away you’d never spot this compact, heavily disguised unit.

It really is a case of ‘poacher beware’ – you could be on camera recorded scooping up that trout. Oh, and law enforcement authorities are extremely adept at swapping ‘intell’ – the latest information on offenders and what they are up to. Poacher Cam footage is shared with the Police.

If camera footage doesn’t lead to the direct identification of a trout poacher, it provides plenty of other useful information, Anthony says. It tells them just how much ‘foot traffic’ a particular pool is getting.

“It may be that we single out the spot for a visit in person,” Anthony says, to catch poachers in the act.

“The surveillance cameras – updated every couple of years - have been a very effective enforcement and deterrent tool. You may think you are in a remote spot where you can poach a trout well away from observant eyes – but it’s just not the case.”

And Anthony Van Dorp points out that the courts are taking poaching very seriously. In the past year judges have imposed penalties ranging from $700 dollar fines to as many as 280 hours of community work. That amounts to some incredibly expensive eating fish.

The ‘Big Brother’ invasion of our privacy argument certainly can’t be ignored. It may be a sad reflection on modern society that we have so many surveillance cameras operating. You can’t do much in the downtown these days without being observed by perhaps multiple CCTV cameras, and now they’re in the bush too. But if some (extraordinarily) well-hidden cameras are part of the price we have to pay to preserve breeding fish crucial to the health of the fishery, so be it.


© Scoop Media

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