Three groups of recreational divers face prosecution after being nabbed with almost 400 illegally caught paua in the Wellington region over the weekend.
The find marked the start of the Ministry for Primary Industries' summer patrols.
Ministry for Primary Industries District Compliance Manager Mike Green said it was a disappointing start to the programme.
More than 40 fishery officers conducted both land and vessel patrols targeting recreational fishers in Wellington, Kapiti and Wairarapa the past weekend.
“We inspected and boarded more than 30 recreational vessels and spoke to more than 200 people.”
Green said three separate groups of divers would be prosecuted for excess and undersized paua and excess mussels.
“One of the groups had in excess of 290 paua. The vehicle and dive gear used in the alleged offending were seized.”
Others received infringements and/or warning notices.
“We’re very disappointed with what we discovered. Our message is very clear: if you break the law, you’ll face the consequences.”
Green said people who insisted on taking excess and undersized paua were depleting stocks for future generations.
“Some of the people we caught were experienced divers who know the rules but chose to flout them. There’s no excuse for that.”
He added that fishery officers would be patrolling all summer.
‘If you’re contemplating taking more than your fair share and taking undersized shellfish, be warned.”
Information on rules regarding catch size and limits can be found at www.mpi.govt.nz.