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Crayfish Poacher Caught In Whangamata Estuary

Suspected Crayfish Poacher Caught In Whangamata Estuary

A Whangamata man suspected of taking illegal quantities of rock lobster (crayfish) has been caught by fishery officers and is likely to face prosecution.

Local Ministry of Fisheries District Compliance Manager, Brendon Mikkelsen, says fishery officers had been observing the man and his activities in the Whangamata area for "about two weeks" before making their move.

"This man was leaving early in the morning, collecting rock lobster from 10 different pots (recreational fishers are only allowed to use a maximum of three) and then returning to the Whangamata estuary where he transferred his catch to a holding pot.

"While transferring the lobster, he took great pains to ensure his boat was positioned in such a way as to block his activities from the houses on the southern side of the estuary.

"We also saw him at an untended launch on a pole mooring in the estuary."

Fishery officers observed the man collecting rock lobster for four days in a row before confronting him last Friday. They then found 24 rock lobster in the man's holding pot in the estuary and a further three on the nearby launch.

"This man was obviously taking more than his daily recreational allowance of six rock lobster per day," says Mikkelsen. "What's more, some lobsters were undersized and another was in berry.

"This is the sort of greedy, indiscriminate behaviour that harms our valuable recreational fisheries. This man was basically stealing from other members of his community."

Mikkelsen says the man is likely to face a number of serious fisheries charges, with maximum fines of up to $20,000. His 4.3m boat, engine and trailer have also been seized and these will likely be forfeited to the Crown if he is convicted.

Mikkelsen says he would like to thank those members of the Whangamata community who alerted them to the man's illegal activities.

"Fishery officers obviously cannot be everywhere on the coast all the time. Ordinary people in communities like Whangamata are our eyes and ears. The information they confidentially supply, often through the popular 0800 4 Poacher number (0800 4 76224) help us put the poachers out of business."


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