High winds and large swells associated with Cyclone Evan are believed to have set the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve marker buoy loose.
The buoy has finally been reinstated after breaking free from its mooring on Boxing Day.
Department of Conservation ranger Marie Jordan says it is not clear exactly how the mooring line broke.
The buoy was found washed up on the beach near the refinery wharf at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.
Commercial divers were deployed to reinstate the buoy a few days later but were unable to locate the mooring block.
"It was the worst time of the year for this to happen, during peak holiday period when everybody is out fishing," Miss Jordan says.
The buoy is located at the eastern end of the reserve, closest to Little Munro Bay, near the number 15 starboard marker which is the official reserve boundary line.
The department is pleased that most people know the reserve boundary goes to the starboard marker.
Ranger Leon Candy, who has been patrolling the reserve over the holiday period, says although there have been a couple of breaches, overall word seems to be out about the marine reserve.
The majority of people approached who were fishing outside of the reserve knew where the reserve boundaries were.
Maps of the reserve boundaries are available from most fishing shops in Whangarei or from the Department of Conservation office. There are also signs at most boat ramps.
If you see any illegal fishing, report to 0800 DOC HOT.
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