A monster haul of more than 800 paua has landed a group of men in deep water with the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The three men were nabbed on the west coast south of Titahi Bay, Wellington, yesterday, after being observed for some time by compliance officers.
Three large packs, hidden by sight by the men earlier, were found containing 867 shucked paua.
When processed and weighed the haul amounted to 81kgs of paua meat, with many paua under the legal size limit.
The recreational fishing limit for paua is ten per person per day.
Two of the men involved had been seen in a small dinghy in dangerous sea conditions recovering paua thought to have been caught and stashed earlier.
All three will face charges with a maximum penalty of five years' jail and/or a $250,000 fine.
Two of the three were known to ministry officers.
Wellington and Taranaki district compliance manager Mike Green said he was disappointed to see such large scale gathering taking place.
''Wellington is well known for its paua and in places there is a good and plentiful supply for all to enjoy.
''The actions of these individuals in this particular case go a long way to ruin that for everyone else. Taking quantities of that size strips an entire area and can take months if not years to recover.''
The men will appear at the Porirua District Court next month.