Community service for largest recorded snapper catch breach

An Auckland fisherman has been sentenced for what is being described as the largest-ever recorded breach of the daily recreational snapper limit.

Snapper haul

Loseli Utumoengalu was sentenced to 320 hours community work for taking 325 snapper.

The 43-year-old Three Kings man had pleaded guilty to taking more than his daily recreational allowance of snapper and admitted intending to sell his catch.

The maximum penalty is five years in prison or a fine of $250,000.

At the time of the offence the daily recreational allowance for snapper for the northeast North Island was nine per person per day. It is now seven per person per day.

Compliance officers inspected Mr Utumoengalu's boat at Kawakawa Bay on October 10 last year and the catch of the three fishers on board. They were shown a bin containing 27 snapper, which was the joint recreational limit for three fishers. A further 40 snapper were located under the floor at which point the boat was impounded awaiting a court hearing.

A few days later officers noticed an increasingly strong smell of fish coming from the vessel and after unscrewing part of the floor, found 258 snapper in the bow of the boat, bringing the total to 325 fish.

Mr Utumoengalu claimed all the fish were his and he intended to sell them, however Nancy Utumoengalu, 42, of Three Kings, is also facing charges.

Compliance Officer Justen Maxwell-McGinn says the huge catch, the effort to conceal it and the intention to sell it makes it a very serious offence.

"This sort of offending is a real risk to the sustainability of any fishery. There wouldn't be many fish left if everyone behaved like that."