Vigilant residents protect reserve

Some unusual activity in Nelson's Horoirangi Marine Reserve beside the Glen and photographed by a resident doesn't appear to show fishing, but there has been some recent illegal activity there, the Department of Conservation has confirmed.

A motorboat which looks to be dragging floats was pictured by resident Linda Nichols a fortnight ago. She sent the pictures to DOC, which says the boat "appears to be towing buoys rather than fishing but we can't be sure". There wasn't enough evidence to pursue the complaint.

Nichols said the response from DOC at the time had been that there wasn't anybody available to act on the call straight away, and this has been confirmed by the department's Motueka biodiversity conservation services manager Chris Golding.

The Horoirangi reserve is officially watched over by DOC staff based in Motueka.

"It isn't always possible to quickly get there in response to reports of people illegally fishing," Golding said. "But we do follow up on information we are given in a bid to identify those involved so we can act on the offending. We aim to prosecute offending when possible."

No fishing or removal of marine life is permitted in marine reserves and the penalties include up to three months' imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 for members of the public, and up to $250,000 for commercial intruders.

In 2014 there were four instances of illegal fishing in Horoirangi followed up by DOC, resulting in two prosecutions still going through the courts. Two warning letters were issued and the remaining case was discontinued due to lack of evidence.

So far this year two offences have been reported.

"On both occasions local Glenduan residents reported the offences and said it wasn't the first time they had noticed fishing in the marine reserve. There wasn't sufficient evidence to follow up on either of these incidents," Golding said.

DOC was grateful to local residents for keeping an eye on the reserve, reporting possible illegal fishing, and providing photos.

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It got "great support" from Glen residents and also from tourism operators who observed goings-on in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve on the Abel Tasman National Park coastline, he said.

DOC appreciated reports on its 24-hour line of illegal fishing and would like as many details as possible including date, time, number of offenders and description, boat details and names, vehicle registration and photos.

The Tonga Island reserve was frequently patrolled by DOC national park rangers, Golding said.

Horoirangi was also patrolled from time to time, with more patrols during summer when illegal fishing was more likely.

"We vary the times of patrols and some are in the early morning. But it is a case of being on the water in the reserve at the right time to catch anyone illegally fishing." This was why public help was so valuable, he said.

Nichols, who like many Glen residents can see the reserve from her home, said she and her neighbours had several times watched boats trolling lures through the reserve.

"It's usually quite early in the morning when the sun's coming up, and you see someone going around in circles with lines coming out the back."

The 904-hectare Horoirangi reserve, created in 2006, extends 5km north from the Glen to Ataata Point off Cable Bay, and 1 nautical mile (1852 metres) offshore.

Many boaties fish just outside its limits and the area at the Glen past its southern boundary is a popular spot for spearfishermen at this time of year, when kingfish can frequently be found there.

Illegal fishing can be reported to the DOC 24-hour hotline, 0800 362 468.

 - The Nelson Mail

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