Ministry for Primary Industries fishery officers have caught six adults, with five children in tow, allegedly in possession of a large haul of illegally taken crayfish and kina from the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve in Gisborne.
MPI spokesman Adam Plumstead says the officers, who were on a routine patrol, were alerted to people diving in the reserve by a school group around 3pm on Tuesday.
He says fishery officers were extremely disappointed when they discovered the contents of a backpack belonging to the divers.
There were 37 crayfish, 22 of which were undersized, Mr Plumstead said.
“It is illegal full stop to take marine life from the reserve and to discover that this group had taken mostly undersized crayfish made this offending even harder to stomach," he said.
Four of the adults admitted to taking the crayfish and one of them said he had been caught poaching from the reserve before - about 11 years ago, Mr Plumstead said.
Another person who was carrying a blue container admitted he was responsible for taking what was approximately one kilogram of kina, all of which had been shucked inside the reserve waters and put in a large container.
“This person said he knew the area was a marine reserve but believed it stopped where he went down to the beach.
“Another person said she did not take any of the crayfish. We are continuing to speak to her.”
Mr Plumstead says it’s very disappointing that the adults had set such a bad example for the children who were present.
“Their behaviour when apprehended left a lot to be desired. They were aggressive, loud and abusive. They had the attitude that they could do whatever they wanted and that the rules didn’t apply to them.”
This alleged offending comes after a group of people were sentenced last month for taking a large amount of crayfish and kina from the same reserve. Those people were caught in a joint operation between MPI and the Department of Conservation.
“To see that this is still happening is gutting,” Mr Plumstead said.
“The reserve is a precious marine environment and is protected for good reason. Most people respect the fact that diving and fishing here is absolutely off-limits. It is a small minority who don’t.
“MPI will ensure these people are dealt with appropriately through the courts.”
All of the illegally taken crayfish was returned to the reserve.