A social media post advertising fresh pāua for sale in Masterton has attracted the attention of the Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] and provided a timely reminder that recreational fishers should not be selling their catches if they don’t want to find themselves on the hook for a hefty fine.
The post on Facebook marketplace group Wairarapa Sales featured a photo of 17 pāua scattered across a kitchen bench with text advertising bags of 10-12 for $160 each.
It was quickly removed, but not before eagle-eyed scrollers reported the illicit activity to MPI.
Selling recreationally caught seafood – including finfish, shellfish and rock lobster – is illegal if the vendor is not commercially registered.
The Wairarapa Sales post was also reported to Reon Te Maari-kerr, who is Rohe moana kaitiaki [ocean guardian] for Ngāi Tūmapūhia A Rangi [a hapū based further north along the coast].
Te Maari-kerr said he had “lots of whanau” send him screenshots.
After seeing the post, Te Maari-kerr tried messaging the seller but the account had blocked any messages and the post advertising the pāua was soon taken down from the sales group.
Te Maari-kerr said that he believes the person would have received negative feedback, alerting them to the fact that selling seafood is illegal.
“So I wanted to talk to them about it, have a korero, but they have blocked their profile to messages,” Te Maari-kerr said.
“My guess is they are maybe young and didn’t actually realise what the rules are.
“If you knew what the rules were you just wouldn’t post on Facebook, you’d know not to.”
Te Maari-kerr has discussed the issue with MPI in the past and said it is all about educating people in the right way.
“One thing I tell whānau, I might be a kaitiaki, but we all need to stay vigilant and watch what’s happening on our coastline,” he said.
“I’m out there all the time so if I see divers I go and introduce myself, and by doing that, I get to break into conversation nicely and see what they’re up to.”
Wairarapa is included in the Pau2 Central area for fishing limitations, which extends from Cape Runaway east of Ōpōtiki, around the southern end of the North Island, to Tirua Point north of Taranaki.
In September this year, the total catch limit for central area pāua halved from 10 per person down to five.
Those fishing recreationally are legally required to follow the fishing rules.
Fisheries New Zealand fisheries compliance director Steve Ham confirmed that MPI is aware of reports of pāua being offered for sale online in Wairarapa.
“Given that we are looking into this matter at present, we are currently unable to comment further on it at this time,” he said.
However, Ham also wanted to remind people that it is illegal to buy or swap fish – including pāua – that has been caught via recreational fishing or via a customary authorisation.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of up to $250,000 if the perpetrator is convicted in court.
Ham said community support in reporting poachers and others who break the rules is critical in maintaining kaimoana protection for future generations.
“If you suspect something, we urge you to report it,” Ham said.
“Whether it is people acting suspiciously at the beach or online – if it looks dodgy, we want to know about it.
“We follow up all reports of suspicious fishing-related activity, including buying and selling on social media sites such as Facebook, and we’re grateful to the public for often bringing incidents of suspicious behaviour to our notice.”
Ham encourages all those who observe any fishy fishing behaviour to report it via 0800 4 POACHER [0800 476 224].