A three-day patrol conducted by a combined team from the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry for Primary Industries recently served a stern warning to paua poachers in Wellington and the West Coast.
Fishery Officers from the MPI, supported by a crew from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No.3 Squadron, carried out 17 inspections while patrolling around 680km of coastline in Wellington’s south coast and the West Coast.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tony Davies said paua poaching was a tough nut to crack.
“However, because of the great teamwork between the NZDF and the MPI, we have delivered an unmistakable warning to serious offenders,” Air Component Commander Air Commodore Davies said.
“The strong visible presence we have maintained through an RNZAF A109 helicopter’s regular patrols has served as a deterrent and has kept many of these offenders on the move.
“Many of the beaches or reefs are also out of the way so air support is crucial to get to these places.”
MPI Compliance Operations Manager Gary Orr acknowledged that they still had a way to go but the joint patrols with NZDF had succeeded in making a dent on Wellington’s image as the paua-poaching capital of New Zealand.
“The RNZAF A109 helicopter is a very useful asset to cover a large area of coastline and enables us to access remote areas,” Mr Orr said.
“As it is a small aircraft, it is also able to land easily on rugged terrain.
“All marine reserves in the West Coast were checked and cleared and no breaches were identified.”
Mr Orr said the results of the Wellington patrol would potentially lead to one prosecution and one infringement notice for possession of undersized fish.