Some Taranaki coastal farmers are considering banning public access across their land in an effort to protect the region's paua stocks.
They say they've had a gutsful of watching people returning to their vehicles carrying sacks laden with paua numbers well over the legal limit of 10 per person per day.
This was confirmed yesterday by Ministry of Fisheries fishery officer Brad Dannefaerd, of New Plymouth.
He said it was local farmers who this weekend used the ministry's 0800 4 POACHER phone line to complain of big numbers of paua being illegally taken from locations along the South Taranaki coastline between Manaia and Opunake.
"The farm owners are really concerned about this. They're happy to let people walk across their paddocks to get a few paua – and they hate the thought of possibly having to lock gates because of the actions of a few.
"But they will. They're quite prepared to restrict or even deny public access to the coast if that means preventing the local fishery from collapsing."
Yesterday, Mr Dannefaerd was inundated with calls and approaches from both the media and the public following the article in the Taranaki Daily News about the discovery of paua poaching on a massive scale at the weekend.
On Saturday, fishery officers intercepted one group of three Stratford men with 701 paua – a number that was 23 times over the legal limit.
Another group had 150 paua, and many more shellfish gatherers were seen getting out of the area with sacks containing hundreds more paua.
"The incident seems to have struck a raw nerve in Taranaki," he said.
"I've been stopped by a number of people who are really annoyed over this. They're furious."
Mr Dannefaerd says Taranaki people have good reason to be angry, because the pillaging of paua stocks on this level is endangering the resource.
"The whole reason why we have the daily limit of 10 paua in place is to make sure stocks can be sustained," he said.
"I've worked with a number of other agencies overseas, including California Fish and Game, Washington State Fish and Wildlife, and the Canadian federal agencies, and many of these have already been forced to ban the gathering of abalone because of over-fishing.
"These people reckon that we are where they were 20 years ago. Already there is some localised depletion of paua stocks taking place in Taranaki because of over-fishing. Everyone has to understand that it wouldn't be hard to over-fish our paua stocks to the point of the fishery collapsing."
Mr Dannefaerd says it would be tragic if that ever happened, because the current ability to head to the coast and gather a feed of paua is part of the Taranaki lifestyle.
Seafood lovers left disgusted by paua poaching
Paua lovers around the country have been sickened by the poaching of 701 paua by three Stratford men on Saturday.
The story of the plundered paua beds quickly went around New Zealand and the actions of the men were condemned by the commercial paua industry.
Amateur gatherers were equally angry.
A super low tide last night saw more than two dozen people gathering shellfish on New Plymouth's Kawaroa Reef and those approached by the Taranaki Daily News were disgusted by the poaching incident.
Student Brad Bennett has been gathering paua for years, often sharing it with the boarders at New Plymouth Boys' High when he was a pupil there.
"I didn't believe it when I saw it. I just thought well if everyone starts doing this there is going to be nothing for our kids and grandkids. They will miss out," he said.
Adam Laititi, a New Plymouth builder, said everyone tried to get their limit of 10 if they could, but 701 between three men did not add up.
"I wasn't too impressed," he said.
Taryn Martin perhaps summed up the feeling of many seafood and marine life lovers. Although not a frequent paua gatherer he appreciates knowing they are there if he gets the urge.
"I was just disgusted really. It was completely over the top and was rude to everyone in the district and the region," he said.
- Taranaki Daily News