A Wellington man has been banned from fishing and sentenced to home detention for his part in taking 319 pāua from the harbour to sell on the black market.
A Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) investigation found that 207 of the pāua were undersize. The daily legal limit for pāua is 10 per person, with a minimum size of 125mm.
At sentencing in the Wellington District Court, the Court took into account that 45-year-old Felesese Sam Pati was a recidivist offender with regard to pāua poaching. He was prohibited from fishing for three years and sentenced to home detention for six months, following a successful prosecution by the Ministry on two charges under the Fisheries Act 1996.
Mr Pati was the second man to be sentenced on the matter. His dive partner was sentenced in 2019 to 10 months’ home detention and was also banned from fishing for three years.
Lower North Island regional fisheries compliance manager, Tyrone Robinson says the sentence should send a strong message – there are consequences for pāua poaching.
“Along with his dive partner, Mr Pati knowingly took a huge amount of pāua, many undersize with the intention to sell and profit from this poached seafood on the black market,” he said.
“Pāua is a precious resource. It’s illegal to sell recreationally caught seafood. It’s really disappointing and seriously undermines sustainability of a finite resource.”
The court heard that Mr Pati and an associate had been diving in the early hours of 30 June 2018 in Wellington Harbour when they were stopped by Police at around 2.40am. The officers noticed the men were driving without lights on and at speed. Police noted two wet back packs in the car before the pair fled the scene in their vehicle.
However, the men were found a short time later and the 319 shucked pāua were also retrieved with assistance from a police dog after an attempt had been made to hide the haul under bushes.
MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).
And to ensure they know the rules recreational fishers should download the free NZ Fishing Rules app: NZ Fishing Rules app