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Chatham Islands fisherman sentenced for paua and crayfish quota fraud - MPI

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A Chatham Islands commercial fisherman has been sentenced to 9 months home detention and 200 hours community work over unreported shellfish he caught valued at over $800,000.

Kevin Huia Clarke (73), a commercial fisher based at Port Hutt, Chatham Islands, appeared in the Wellington District Court for sentencing on four fisheries charges.

The court also ordered that fishing boats, valued at $110,000 be forfeited along with other property including holding pots valued at $700 and quota shares valued at about $5000.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director of Compliance Services, Gary Orr, says the scale of Clarke’s offending displayed an enormous level of greed and disregard for the rules. It involved catching and landing 22.2 tonnes of shellfish with a value of over $1,600,000, half of which was unreported.

"This unreported catch had a value of more than $800,000. This level of theft of precious kaimoana is baffling. Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who steal from our fisheries will be held to account."

"Clarke’s offending began in January 2017 and continued through until March 2018. It was discovered during a routine joint Royal New Zealand Navy and MPI patrol when MPI fishery officers found 550kg of live ordinary pāua that did not have a record of catch or landing returns.

"The investigation found that Clarke had in fact sent 22.2 tonnes of shellfish to a mainland receiver of which only half was reported. The fish receiver paid Clarke’s fishing operation between $1.1 and 1.2 million for the shellfish taken during this time period. About $550,000 was paid to Clarke. Clarke was estimated to benefit by about $340,000 when his costs were taken into account.

"This fish was effectively landed outside of the fisheries management system in a way that Mr Clarke deliberately made difficult to detect. This type of theft threatens the sustainability of our fisheries and has a direct effect on those who choose to act within the law," says Gary Orr.

The pāua fishery on the Chatham Islands is the largest commercial pāua fishery in New Zealand. It is considered an important food source for customary and recreational fishers.

To report any suspicious fishing activity, phone the MPI 0800 4 POACHER line - 0800 47 62 24.

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