Everyone can help be the eyes and ears of our coastlineFisheries and Aquaculture
With one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world all users of our marine environment must help in the fight against organised criminal poachers, says Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope.
Mr Benson-Pope says enforcement operations, ongoing surveillance and patrols were all having an impact but poaching of species like paua, kina and rock lobster wont be stamped out without public help. He is urging the public to report any suspicious activity this holiday season by calling freephone 0800 4 POACHER (0800 4 76224).
In the four months between August and November the Ministry of Fisheries successfully prosecuted 24 separate cases related to illegally taken paua. Penalties included fines, community-based sentences and the forfeiture of cars, and dive gear.
“It is clear recent Ministry of Fisheries operations have had a definite and positive effect,” said the minister. “But with a coastline as long as New Zealand’s the reality is that enforcement agencies will never be able to be everywhere that poachers strike."
Mr Benson-Pope says the collection of quality intelligence about the activities of poachers was the way to secure convictions and stop them in their tracks. That often started with information provided by the public.
“The public can help by being our eyes and ears when fisheries officers are not present. If we are to catch these increasingly determined criminals we need coastal users – boaties, holiday makers, land owners – to report suspicious activity.”
Mr Benson-Pope says the Government has committed significant new resources to the marine sector including $500 million for a new Navy multi role vessel, two 85-metre offshore patrol vessels, and four 55-metre inshore patrol vessels, which will help patrol our fisheries when they enter service in the next three years; a $300million upgrade of equipment aboard P3 Orion surveillance aircraft; and $4.3million being spent on a nationwide radio system for Fisheries Officers.
The Ministry of Fisheries also recently announced a major reorganisation of its compliance unit, signalling an increase in compliance staff from the current 160 to 180, or almost 15%, over the coming year.