Community service for snapper haul

SIMON DAY
Last updated 17:56 15/08/2014

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An Auckland man has been sentenced to 320 hours community work for taking 325 snapper in the largest recorded breach of the daily recreational limit.

Loseli Utumoengalu, 43, who had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of taking more than his daily recreational allowance of snapper and the intention sell his catch, was sentenced today in the Papakura District Court.

Compliance officers inspected Utumoengalu's boat at Kawakawa Bay on the 10th of October 2013 and the catch of the three fishers on board. They were shown a bin containing 27 snapper, which was the joint recreational limit for three fishers.

A further 40 snapper were located under the floor, at which point compliance officers impounded the boat awaiting a court hearing.

On the 14th of October compliance officers noticed an increasingly strong smell of fish coming from the vessel. After unscrewing part of the floor, a further inspection found 258 snapper in the bow of the boat bringing the total to 325 fish.

At the time of the offence the daily recreational allowance for snapper for the northeast North Island was nine per person per day. It is now seven per person per day.

During interviews Utumoengalu claimed all the fish were his and he intended to sell them.

One of his fellow fishers, Nancy Utumoengalu, 42, is also facing charges.

Ministry for Primary Industries Compliance Officer Justen Maxwell-McGinn says the huge catch, the effort to conceal it and the intention to sell it makes it a very serious offence.

"This sort of offending is a real risk to the sustainability of any fishery. There wouldn't be many fish left if everyone behaved like that.

It is illegal for recreational fishers to sell their catch. The maximum penalty is five years in prison or a fine of $250,000.

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