22 Dec 2017

Eyes peeled for illegal fishing

7:57 pm on 22 December 2017

Volunteers will be scouring coastlines for illegal fishing this summer.

Both juvenile and adult snapper gather in the marine reserve around Goat Island near Leigh in New Zealand.

Photo: 123RF

As well as Ministry for Primary Industries officials, more than 200 honorary fishery officers will be helping to tackle the problem across the country.

Recreational Fishing Council President Keith Ingram said poaching was widespread.

"Our fisheries in many coastal areas, which are accessible to the public, are getting depressed through commercial and other activity," he said.

That meant people were now following the fish into reserves, some on purpose, while others were just unaware of the restrictions.

"Many of our new New Zealanders, who make up a large portion of recreational fishers, don't necessarily understand the rules, they just understand our seafood is a public bounty," he said.

Pohatu Marine Reserve in Flea Bay, near Akaroa, is home to seals, white-flippered penguins, Hector's Dolphin and a diverse range of plant and fish species.

There is also a strict fishing ban in the area.

Pohatu Penguins Plunge director Shireen Helps said not everyone abided by the rules.

"We had a really bad spate where we were having about three [boats] a week."

Company staff would be radioing in any suspicious behaviour to the Department of Conservation, and approaching the fishers to inform them of the penalties.

"We tell them that they would lose their boat, lose the trailer and the car that's towing it, plus all of their fishing gear and be fined up to $20,000."

While the problem had improved recently, the number of boats usually increased again over the holiday season, Ms Helps said.

Sea Shepherd New Zealand national director Michael Lawry said his organisation would be out along the east coast of the South Island, as part of their campaign Operation Pahu.

Sea Sherpherd would pass on any illegal behaviour crew observed to the Ministry for Primary Industries.