Properties searched in investigation of East Coast black market crayfish ring

Eight homes in the Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty areas have been searched as part of an investigation into a black market crayfish ring. 

Crayfish. Source: 1 NEWS

For six months, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has been investigating the alleged ring.

About 80 officers searched homes in the Mahia, Wairoa, Whakatāne and Kawerau areas. The searches began in the early hours of this morning.

The properties are those of people believed to be involved in the ring, MPI explained.

"We believe this was a highly-organised black-market ring which took in excess of 4300 crayfish with a commercial value of over $300,000 from the Mahia area in Hawkes Bay over a seven-month period,” MPI's Gary Orr said. 

MPI believes the crayfish were then sold on the black market in Auckland, Kawerau, Rotorua, Turangi, Gisborne, Napier, and Blenheim areas.

"The investigation to date has focused on gathering evidence, including surveillance of alleged offending," Orr said.

"Today’s search warrants will provide further information to support the investigation. We will be gathering a number of formal statements from suspects as part of this work."

Orr said MPI Fishery Officers work hard to protect our fishing resources from people who seek to profit illegally.

"We hope today’s development sends a strong message to others tempted by greed — that we will do everything within our powers under the Fisheries Act to protect the fishing resources owned by all New Zealanders."

MPI encourages people to report suspected illegal activity through the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER number (0800 47 62 24).