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Commercial fisherman guilty of fishing in a marine reserve

17 August, 2012

Commercial fisherman found guilty of fishing in a marine reserve

A commercial fisherman has had his boat seized and permanently forfeited to the Department of Conservation (DOC) after being found guilty of fishing in the Motu Manawa / Pollen Island Marine Reserve in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

DOC acting biodiversity programme manager Callum Bourke says this is the first time a commercial fisherman has had his boat seized and forfeited in Auckland as a result of a prosecution by DOC.

“It’s bad enough when a recreational fisher sets nets in a marine reserve, but when a commercial fisherman does it and plans to sell the fish at the Auckland Fish Market, it’s beyond belief really,” he says.

The case was heard yesterday at the Waitakere District Court. In addition to having his boat the “Manu 2” seized, 45-year-old fisherman Malona Saamu of Henderson will also serve a total of 250 hours of community service for the charge laid by DOC and for additional charges laid by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Motu Manawa / Pollen Island Marine Reserve is located between Pt Chevalier and Te Atatu, and the North Western Motorway passes through the reserve. In March last year, a motorist told DOC he had seen a fishing boat laying nets in the marine reserve.

Two DOC rangers responded to the call and found two nets set by the defendant earlier that day. They seized both nets totalling 390 meters in length and 89 fish which had been caught and were already dead.

Marine reserves exist to protect unique habitats and species. Some areas are also designated as reserves because they are a good example of a certain type of habitat.

The Motu Manawa /Pollen Island Marine Reserve protects some 500 hectares of the inner reaches of Waitemata Harbour. It includes the intertidal mudflats, tidal channels, mangrove swamp, saltmarsh, and shellbanks surrounding Pollen and Traherne Islands.

The reserve supports an abundance of birdlife. It is a rich feeding ground for white faced herons, pukeko, spotless crake and the endangered banded rail. The wetlands are also important for non-waders, like kingfisher and fernbirds, and for migratory birds such as godwits, knots and sandpipers that fly to northern Asia to breed.

The reserve is signposted by prominent signs, some of which are visible from the North Western Motorway. There are further signs at entrances to local boat ramps and at commonly used car parks in the vicinity of the marine reserve. It is also marked on marine charts of the area.

The Department of Conservation’s Auckland Area office has a further 11 marine reserve cases before North Shore District Court on August 20.

Mr Bourke says this case and the forthcoming cases at North Shore District Court are evidence that if you fish in a marine reserve, you will get caught.

“With the help of our partners in the local community and other agencies, illegal fishing in a marine reserve in the Auckland region is likely to be seen and reported to DOC. We take a dim view of offending within the marine reserves and when caught you will be brought before the courts,” he says.

DOC asks anyone who sees someone fishing or collecting seafood in a marine reserve to call 0800 DOC HOT / 0800 362 468.


Background information

• DOC warranted rangers have the power to seize both recreational and commercial vessels caught fishing in marine reserves.

• The charge of taking from a marine reserve for commercial purposes was laid under the Marine Reserves Act 1971.

• As well as possible forfeiture of boats and equipment, convicted offenders may face the following penalties outlined in the Marine Reserves Act 1971: For commercial taking - “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to a fine not exceeding $250,000, or both”; For recreational taking - “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both”.

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