Raid nets Facebook seafood operation
Seafood meals sold online using allegedly blackmarket fish were prepared in a cooking area that was "disgusting" the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says.
The meals were prepared using fish allegedly taken illegally and were found in a raid on a Hamilton premises by MPI compliance officers.
"The cooking area was disgusting," MPI Manukau district compliance manager Michael Greenstreet said.
"I don't know how people weren't seriously ill from eating this food."
Investigations are continuing after the raid on May 16, that followed a two-month investigation that included prepared meals containing the paua and crayfish allegedly being sold through Facebook.
MPI said its officers found 14 kilograms of minced paua, a number of crayfish and some frozen fish that had all allegedly been taken illegally.
The seafood was allegedly sourced by a recreational diver from Motiti Island, in the Bay of Plenty, and then taken to the Hamilton address where it was processed for sale or added to meals.
The premises used to process the seafood and meals was not a registered food business, MPI said.
Greenstreet described the alleged offending as "disappointing".
"Firstly it depletes valuable stocks of paua and crayfish from an area that is still dealing with the aftermath of the Rena grounding," he said.
"And it puts the public at risk of food related illnesses by not adhering to standard food-safety practices."
Greenstreet warned people not to buy seafood from Facebook unless they knew it had come from a legitimate source or to buy home-cooked meals from Facebook as there was no guarantee that the food had been handled correctly.
The alleged offenders may face charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 with a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.