By Don Farmer

Don.farmer@age.co.nz

It seems the plundering of paua around the New Zealand coast is a never- ending problem.

This week we were told by Ministry of Primary Industry officials that a sting by fisheries officers on the weekend had resulted in three different groups of recreational divers being nabbed, having a combined total of almost 400 illegal paua in their possession.

While the biggest haul was seized in Plimmerton the fisheries officers and honorary rangers included Wairarapa in their sting operation and with good reason.

Much and all as we would like to believe otherwise the Wairarapa coastline has been far from immune from paua poachers.

Over the years there has been many instances of totally greedy grabs along our shores from those who have no respect for the sustainability of what is a delicate fishery and are driven by nothing other than simple greed.

Unfortunately illegal paua are said to often end up being sold to unscrupulous city restaurateurs who on a scale of criminal guilt must rate as high, if not higher, than the paua poachers who supply them.

As far as recreational limits are concerned the law allows people to gather 10 paua each for those who actually enter the water, of a shell size of at least 125mm measured lengthwise.

That is plenty for anyone who may want to make a meal, indeed several meals, of a great, unique resource and there can be no justification at all for grabbing more and even less justification for taking undersize paua.

The smaller paua are the future stocks of legal paua once they grow to size and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out if they are plundered then there will be less, bigger sized paua to harvest.

Of course, responsible fishermen know this and work within the law, what we are talking about here is those who don’t intend to play fair from the outset and are prepared to take the risk of being caught for monetary gain.

What we need over summer is for people to keep a sharp eye out along our coastline for suspicious behaviour and to have no hesitation in dobbing in poachers.

We also need far stiffer penalties for those who are caught and convicted.