Cockles, pāua poaching: Greed extremely disappointing - MPI

By Te Ao - Māori News
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Almost 3,000 cockles and 150 undersized pāua have been seized and returned to the sea in the past week, the Ministry for Primary Industries said in a statement.

“It is extremely disappointing that greed and lack of consideration for the marine ecosystem is common among those we catch,” said Gary Orr, MPI's Director of Compliance.

MPI said Fisheries NZ received two calls to its 0800 4 POACHER line last weekend about groups of people gathering cockles at Eastern Beach in Auckland, an area sign-posted that gathering of any shellfish is prohibited in order to allow stocks to replenish.

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At the southern end of the beach, MPI said fishery officers found a man about to load a large bag of cockles into a vehicle.

“Officers inspected the content and found 2,216 Cockles, 10 whelks and 10 snails.

“The four gatherers told officers they were unaware of the beach closure to the collecting of shellfish and had not seen the closure signage. They also did not know the daily limits for shellfish from areas that are not closed within the Auckland Coromandel area," Orr said. 

“Our officers pointed out there were 16 MPI signs indicating the shellfish closure - at the beach and on approaching the beach.”

He said the alleged offenders may face prosecution.

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Also in the past few days, following more calls to the poacher line, MPI said fishery officers found several groups in the water off Eastern Beach, some eating cockles raw from the shell, others collecting them. The officers seized a bag with 133 cockles hidden under a large inflatable toy.

“These groups also claimed they had not seen the signage and none of them knew the rules about daily limits.

“The officers provided extensive education on areas where collection is legal, areas currently closed and the daily limits for shellfish, including cockles.”

On Wednesday night, MPI said fishery officers seized 579 cockles gathered illegally at Eastern Beach and indicated three people may be prosecuted.

The cockles in all three seizures were returned to the sea.

In a joint operation in Mahia, Hawke’s Bay last weekend, MPI said fishery officers and police checked the haul of several fishermen and found 156 undersized pāua.

MPI said the pāua were returned to the sea, while the vehicle and gear of the alleged offenders, who may face prosecution, have been seized.

“Protecting our precious marine resources is not just the responsibility of Fishery Officers. Those resources belong to New Zealand and we all have a responsibility to act as guardians of those resources for future generations.”

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