Divers were found in possession of more than 600 paua. Source: MPI
Four Wellington divers are facing charges that attract a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and five years imprisonment for gathering excess pāua and offering to sell it on the black market.
The group was caught during an operation conducted by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and police, and will now likely face charges under the Fisheries Act.
MPI manager Mike Green says the operation concluded after MPI fishery officers went to an area on Wellington's south coast to inspect the activities of two divers.
He says that during the inspection it was discovered the pair were in possession of more than 600 paua which is 30 times the daily limit for two people.
As a result, two vehicles and dive gear that were used in the alleged offending were seized.
“Following this, four fisheries search warrants were conducted at the addresses of the two divers as well as another two people identified earlier in our inquiry,” says Green.
“As a result, another 4x4 vehicle and more dive gear were seized.”
Four-wheel drive vehicles were seized. Source: MPI
Green says further search warrants were carried out this week at properties identified as the homes of people who were allegedly purchasing the seafood from the divers.
“These people will also likely face serious fisheries charges. Abusing our fisheries and taking in excess of the daily limit for any fish or shellfish is bad enough. This sort of offending has a huge impact on the sustainability of the fishery and creates a localised depletion that impacts everyone,” says Green.