Tairāwhiti Chief Fisheries Officer at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Richard Ratapu is sending out a firm warning to seafood poachers ahead of summer following multiple prosecutions of those caught taking product from the Rongokako Marine Reserve on the East Coast.
Visiting the marine reserve as an educational outing, students from Tikitiki School are making the most of the opportunity.
Tikitiki School student Jayden Raroa enjoyed “seeing all the flourishing kaimoana in the sea, because at school we've been learning about kaitiakitanga.”
Fellow student Ivan Vanya says, “I'm going to see how many facts I can get about all the sea life we have in here and how they protect the sea out of here, especially all the rare sea life that's in the ocean.”
The Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation with support from MPI and NZ Police.
They deal with poachers on a regular basis.
Ratapu says, “They're coming in the middle of the night to dive for seafood, taking crayfish, kina and pāua too.”
MPI Fisheries Officer Willie Waitoa says, “People amongst these fellas will be taking up to 200 to 300 kina so that's the sort of people we're dealing with.”
23 poachers have been prosecuted in the last 12 months, some have had their driver's license revoked and some have been sentenced to prison.
Ratapu says, “We catch them, they go to court and the court prosecutes them for their actions.”
Ratapu is warning those who might be considering illegally taking product from the area.
“Be careful don't come here and steal seafood from this area, this is a good area, a historic location. It's a breeding ground for fish”.
Ratapu encourages everyone to respect the marine reserve and respect rāhui in other areas as well, especially over the summer season.