Busy start for guardians of our fishery

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012

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Three busts for catching undersized paua and a stakeout were all in a day's work for a rookie Southland fishery officer.

It was busy first day on the job for trainee honorary fishery officer Tere Ngu when two groups of paua gatherers were nabbed for undersized catches in Bluff on Wednesday.

Fishery officers were also forced to lie in wait at a house in Invercargill after a group of people in Bluff dumped a bag of undersized paua and fled.

Primary Industries Ministry fishery officer Peter Meulenbroek and Mr Ngu had identified the vehicle's registration in Bluff and it was traced to an Invercargill address.

Under the guidance of Mr Meulenbroek, Mr Ngu said it was a day that got the blood rushing.

Mr Meulenbroek said two people from the North Island were stopped with 28 undersized paua in a bag of 32, a group of three people was caught with 39 undersized paua out of 48 and the dumped bag contained 23 undersized paua.

Offenders face a $500 fine for excess undersized paua.

Mr Meulenbroek said the good weather had brought out bad behaviour and it could be a long summer for fishery officers.

Mr Ngu said he did not realise his first day training would be so full of action. "It was exciting but mostly it was very disappointing to see how many people were willing to break the rules," he said.

Mr Ngu and his wife Angel have volunteered as honorary fishery officers despite both working fulltime and raising five children.

During the summer the pair will be working for the ministry after work and at weekends.

It was a job they wanted to do because they believed it was important to look after the fishery and ensure future generations could enjoy fish and shellfish.

"Someone has to protect our coastline," Mrs Ngu said.

Mr and Mrs Ngu would be inspecting recreational fishing catches for compliance with daily limits, and gear and size restrictions, Mr Meulenbroek said.

"A vital part of their role is also educating people about fishing rules and the importance of sustaining and protecting our fisheries," he said.

Having HFOs in the Bluff community should provide a boost for fisheries compliance and gave locals readily available contacts to call for advice about regulations.

"It's an area where large numbers of fishers are active across many easily accessible places, so to have extra hands volunteer to undertake recreational patrols and provide education is greatly appreciated."

The ministry was looking for more honorary fishery officers to help police regulations around the region, Mr Meulenbroek said.

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For an application, or for more information, visit the MPI office in Invercargill.

To report illegal fishing activity call 0800 476224.

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

PAUA RULES

Measure the greatest length of the shell in a straight line, parallel to the ventral surface. Do not measure over the curve of the shell. Maximum daily limit per catcher – 10 Minimum size – 125mm. Source: Primary Industries Ministry

- The Southland Times

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