Black market paua and crayfish operation raided

Recreational and commercial fishers suspected of illegally selling over 1 tonne of pāua and hundreds of crayfish have been raided by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) compliance officers today.

The officers moved in on illegal fishing operations today at Hastings, Napier and Mahia.

MPI Compliance Director Dean Baigent says Operation River has been gathering information on black market fishing and trading in Hawkes Bay since March last year.

During this time an MPI special duties officer became involved in the black market activities. The officer uncovered illegal trading of pāua and crayfish which had been gathered by recreational fishers, some of whom disguised their activities through the use of customary authorisations.

Customary authorisations are issued by local kaitiaki but must not be used for financial benefit.

The operation saw the execution of search warrants on 22 dwellings and the inspection of commercial fishing premises in Hastings and Napier.

31 people have been interviewed, one commercial and three recreational fishing vessels, a tractor and 11 vehicles connected to the catch and sales have been seized.

Throughout the process illegal trading of 1.8 tonnes of pāua (shell on) and 600 crayfish were uncovered.

Mr Baigent says the theft of pāua and crayfish undermines the sustainability of both fisheries, putting them at risk for genuine fishers, whether they are customary, commercial or recreational.

“Black market trading is very difficult to counter with traditional enforcement methods. The theft of seafood and its subsequent sale often happens below the radar and we have to use different tactics to apprehend those involved.”

 Black market trading carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.