Undersized consciences

Maybe they'll grizzle. We quite like it when they grizzle.

In fact, there aren't many sounds quite as agreeable as the whine of poachers who are feeling hard done by.

The hell with them. They can minimise their offending as much as they like, casting themselves as the victims of sneaking, prying bureaucracy. But they're nothing of the sort.

They are grasping, selfish types who do real damage regardless of whether it is with deliberate disregard for the the rules or, rather less plausibly nowadays, careless ignorance of them.

Southerners live in a particularly blessed part of a bountiful country. We're lucky compared with most New Zealanders let alone the rest of the world.

We have so much seafood on our doorstep that it affords a wealth of enjoyment. All we have to do is treat it with respect.

Those who poach from our coastlines are not ripping the Government off. They are not sticking it to some pinch-faced ministry officials or skirting stupid regulations.

They most certainly aren't hard-case rebels.

We're entitled to take it personally and see it as thieving from us. Far more importantly, and far worse, is that it's our kids and grandchildren who stand to lose most from their meanspiritedness.

Yesterday's report following a rookie honorary Southland fishery officer in Bluff spanned three busts for catching undersized paua and a stakeout - all part of a job to ensure compliance with daily limits, gear and size restrictions.

More power to those who, accepting honorary roles, add to the work of the professionals to protect the future. The Primary Industries Ministry is always on the lookout for more honorary officers.

It doesn't just come down to them, either. The rest of us need to be vigilant on our kids' behalf. We commend to our readers' attention the 0800 476 224 line to report illegal fishing activity.

It's interestingly common, in stories of poachers being nabbed, to find that the offenders are not people who live locally. It's tricky to decide which is the more dislikeable - those who would effectively steal from areas where their own people would feel the cost, or those who might feel liberated in their travels to spoil it for others. In any case, in a country this compact and with resources of this scale, our future is strongly interconnected.

At times the sheer greed of the poachers is striking. Granted, sometimes the quantities in an individual seizure are small and perhaps the result of the sort of thinking that kicks in when people just aren't prepared to leave the beach empty-handed.

Other times the avarice is there for all to see. Let's not forget the four men stopped at a Stokes Valley checkpoint this year with 1200 paua in the boot, 779 of which were undersized. That little lot had an estimated value of $9000 to $12,000 if sold on the legitimate market.

And that's another thing. Those willing to buy or even feast on undersized seafood are themselves caught up in this disgrace.

There's enough for all, provided it's done sustainably. Which means, at very least, legally. Anything less deserves not just penalty, but a measure of infamy.

The Southland Times