Police say a motorist stopped at a drink-drive checkpoint in the Hutt Valley had 1275 illegally-caught paua in his vehicle.
The man and three passengers were returning from Wairarapa when officers stopped them on Thursday night.
Police say the driver was found to be a banned fisherman and had diving gear in the vehicle.
The Ministry of Fisheries say the seized paua were mostly under-sized, and had a commercial value of about $8500.
Police say one of the men fled and has not yet been located, but the other three were detained under the Fisheries Act for questioning.