Photo / Supplied
Kaimoana that is seized by fishery officials is not donated to community organisations because of the health danger, the ministry of primary industries says.
The ministry says it usually returns seafood it takes off people caught breaking the rules back to the ocean but steers away from donating it.
"A question that inevitably comes up is why MPI doesn’t donate the seized kaimoana to charity or people in need," Steve Ham, MPI's national manager of fisheries compliance, said in a statement.
"Sadly, it is just too dangerous to redistribute it or give it away - no matter how nice of an idea it seems.
“We have no idea how it’s been caught, how long it’s been in the sun and whether it’s been collected or stored in a clean and hygienic way. Seafood that has not been handled correctly could pose a significant health risk. We could make people really sick, so that’s why we can’t donate it.”
14 undersized pāua returned to the sea after inspection. Photo / Supplied
Ham says kaimoana that has a high chance of survival is put back in the ocean.
“Of course the court does not appreciate us showing up with a bag of wet, smelly, mouldy two-month-old pāua, so the next best thing for our officers to do is to lay out any kaimoana as quickly as possible, take photos to show the court, then put everything back in the ocean if it has a high chance of surviving. Usually, shellfish and rock lobster will recover if the time out of the water is kept to a minimum.”
Fishery officer returning illegal crayfish to sea. Photo / Supplied
If the seafood is past recovery then it is frozen and returned to the ocean at a later date in a 'controlled manner'.
“If the kaimoana is dead or damaged, we can’t just throw it back in, as it could wash up on the shoreline, so we will take it back to our offices where it is measured, weighed, tagged and photographed. It’s then frozen and kept till the court case is over,” says Ham.
“We have freezers at our fisheries offices around the country so every so often we take the confiscated fish and seafood and return it back into the marine ecosystem. This enables this illegally harvested seafood to enter the food chain in a controlled manner.”