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Paua Plunderer Fined $3500 And Told: "Hands Off The Shellfish"

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Paua Plunderer Fined $3500 And Told: "Hands Off The Shellfish"

A Tauranga man who took 40 undersized paua from the Mount Maunganui area has been fined $3500 and told to "get his hands off the shellfish".

Lawrence Watene Rota, a 43-year-old forklift operator from Gate Pa, received the fine and the instruction today when he appeared in front of Judge Ingram in the Tauranga District Court.

Rota was caught on the Mount walk track at the base of Mt Maunganui in February after fishery officers received a call on the Ministry's popular 0800 4 POACHER line.

Despite claiming to only have kina in his backpack, Rota was found to have 40 paua, all of which were less than the minimum legal size of 125mm (the paua ranged in size from 124mm to just 74mm). The legal daily maximum for paua, if they are of the correct size, is just 10 per person.

After being discovered with the paua, Rota became aggressive and abusive toward the officer and the police were called to assist in dealing with him.

When questioned, Rota claimed he did not know the rules concerning collecting paua. He also said that he had not seen the large fisheries information sign (featuring the paua regulations) passed which he must have walked to get to his dive area at the base of Mt Maunganui.

It was the second time Rota had been caught breaking the paua regulations; in 2005, he received a $250 infringement notice after being caught with 7 undersized paua.

Ministry of Fisheries senior prosecutor Morgan Dunn told the court the Mount is heavily populated and easily accessible. He also noted that the paua stocks there are under pressure and asked the Court for a deterrent penalty.

Judge Ingram said it was a "pathetic excuse" for Rota to say he didn't know the rules, given the large signs that are there and that he had been previously been caught taking undersized paua.

Rota was fined ($2000 for having excess paua and a further $1500 for having undersize paua). He was also ordered to pay court costs of $260 and was told by Judge Ingram to: "Get his hands off the shellfish, Ministry of Fisheries' Field Operations Manager Brendon Mikkelsen says that it is disappointing to see a repeat offender failing to learn from his previous encounter with fishery officers.

"On the other hand, it is great to see our 0800 4 POACHER line continuing to work well.

"Other fishers and members of the public are simply not prepared to stand by and watch a small minority plunder the shellfish beds and fishing stocks.

"When they see something that is wrong, they have no hesitation in ringing that 0800 4 Poacher number. That enables us to respond quickly and often catch offenders like Rota in the act."

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