Nancy Collis keeps a cool head while protecting New Zealand waters from illegal fishing

LUCY SWINNEN
Last updated 10:24 09/08/2016
PHOTO: ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Nancy Collis volunteers her time to protect Wellington beaches from illegal fishing. She has been an honorary fisheries observer since age 15.

Photo:ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
Nancy Collis volunteers her time to protect Wellington beaches from illegal fishing. She has been an Honorary Fisheries Observer since age 15.

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Mild-mannered Nancy Collis keeps a cool head when reporting illegal fishing.

Equipped with a stab-proof vest, paua knife and pamphlets, Collis has volunteered as an honorary fisheries observer since she was 15-years-old.

Nabbing recreational fishers with under-sized fish or oversized catches led to some tense situations, she said.

"There have been times when the stab-proof vest comes in handy."

Collis always carries a radio and officers patrol in pairs.

Rather than reacting angrily, other people have tried to charm their way out of trouble.

She remembers a particular group of paua collectors serenading her to distract her from her work.

"It is really hard to stay serious in those situations."

Collis patrols as far north as Foxton beach right down to Wellington's south coast.

Her role is part-educator and part-investigator.

Many people may know how to collect paua from New Zealand's shores, but to rescue them and return them is another thing entirely.

Paua are haemophiliacs and even the tiniest nick can result in them bleeding to death.

If people use sharp objects to dislodge the paua shell the abalone can easily they can bleed out.

Before Collis can return undersized paua to the ocean, she uses her blunt paua knife to stem their bleeding, ensuring they will survive when back in the water.

Collis hopes her volunteer work will lead to better education about marine biodiversity. "It is not all about catching the bad guys."

There are 220 honorary fishery observers nationwide and 19 are in Wellington.

Each year they do about 27,000 inspections and catch over 1000 amateur fishers breaking the law.

Ministry for Primary Industries director of fisheries management  Dave Turner said there has been "great progress" in managing catch quotas.

He said 83 per cent of stocks assessed there are no sustainability concerns.

However even for some fish populations that may be healthy overall, there could be localised depletion particularly in popular fishing areas, he said.

"For these areas we work closely with the community to develop solutions."

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- The Wellingtonian

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