A fierce crack-down on poaching from a marine reserve north of Gisborne is being promised by government departments, after 16 people were arrested for illegally taking crayfish and kina.
A recent operation by the the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) found an illegal haul of 55 crayfish and 621 kina had been taken from the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve.
MPI spokesman Adam Plumstead said all of the people caught poaching were likely to face court action for committing offences under the Marine Reserves Act.
"There are absolutely no exceptions to the rules around taking sea life from marine reserves which are a protected environment for a very good reason," says Mr Plumstead.
"The Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve protects over 2,400 hectares of coastline and its marine life from any threats to its existence and when people intentionally disturb that, and take marine life from this area, they are destroying this very special habitat."
The marine reserve, 16km north of Gisborne, was established in 1999 after years of effort by Ngati Kōnohi and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
DOC East Coast District Manager John Lucas said they are committed to a zero-tolerance policy to marine poaching from Te Tapuwae o Rongokako.
"This type of offending impacts on educational opportunities and affects the ongoing restoration of the marine environment," Mr Lucas said.
"We will continue to work with MPI to closely monitor activity around the reserve to ensure those who act illegally will wear the consequences. We take a zero tolerance approach to all offending."
Mr Lucas encouraged the public to report suspicious activity around the reserve to DOC on 0800 362 468, or MPI on 0800 476 224.
"Rather than approach people suspected of illegal activity, we would encourage the public to record useful information including descriptions of the person or people who they believe are committing an offence, vehicle makes and registration numbers and anything else that could be useful in identifying them," says Mr Lucas.