A raid on a group of commerical fishers in Thames has resulted in the seizure of multiple fishing vessles, a large amount of cash and more than 1000 kilograms of fish suspected of being illegally caught.
Fisheries officers with the Ministry of Primary Industries alleged the fishers under-reported catches and illegally supplied snapper to an Auckland fish supply business.
The government agency has been investigating allegations into the unlawful trade of commercially caught fish from the lower Firth of Thames into Auckland.
Last month, 45 fishery officers and the police executed searches at five locations, including three residential properties in Auckland and Waikato. Electronic devices including phones and computers were also seized and are undergoing analysis.
During the searches, more than $25,000 in cash was also seized, along with six commercial fishing vessels and a refrigerated truck.
It's alleged that about 800 kilograms of undocumented grey mullet and kahawai was located, along with 230kg of undocumented snapper.
Eight people have been interviewed and could face prosecution, MPI said in a statement. However, inquiries are ongoing.
Andre Espinoza, MPI’s team manager of fisheries compliance in the western North Island, estimated the group may have supplied in excess of 20 tonnes of un-reported fish to legitimate businesses in the past year.
"There are measures in place to ensure the sustainability of our fisheries including accurate and truthful catch reporting. Those who don’t respect the rules will be appropriately dealt with under the law," Mr Espinoza said, adding fishery officers had increased patrols over the summer season and closely monitored the area.
To report any suspicious fishing activity, phone the MPI 0800 4 POACHER line – 0800 47 62 24.