Fisherman sentenced for black-market paua, rock lobster operation

Michael Andrew Dickson, 45, illegally sold more than $30,000 worth of rock lobster, pictured, and paua. (File photo)

Michael Andrew Dickson, 45, illegally sold more than $30,000 worth of rock lobster, pictured, and paua. (File photo)

A Canterbury fisherman has admitted he ran a lengthy black-market paua and rock lobster operation in exchange for cash, favours, alcohol and wild meat.

Sefton man Michael Andrew Dickson, 45, was sentenced to four months' community detention and 200 hours' community work when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday.

A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigation uncovered Dickson's offending, which included selling 346 rock lobster and 200 paua on the black market between January and May 2015, and September 2015 to May 2016. 

The total retail value of the seafood, if purchased legitimately, was more than $30,000.

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MPI said it was not known how much Dickson benefited financially from his offending, but it would have been "substantial".

Dickson received cash, favours, alcohol and wild meat in return for providing people with the illegally-taken catch.

MPI spokesman Howard Reid said Dickson dived recreationally for paua and rock lobster mainly in the Kaikoura area and acquired the recreational catch of other divers.

"He organised sales by text and phone calls to various people including workmates," Reid said.

"Mr Dickson abused his position as a trusted recreational fisher. His offending was clearly planned and deliberate and was ongoing over two years."

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Reid said Dickson admitted he knew the rules and regulations but it did not stop him from operating outside the quota management system when he was selling seafood.

Such offending seriously undercut the legal commercial fishery industry and impacted commercial, recreational and customary fishers as well as the sustainability of the rock lobster, he said.

"The illegal take of rock lobster and paua is a serious concern in Kaikoura.

"Following the earthquakes, there is even greater concern over the sustainability of paua in the area."

MPI issued a ban this year on the taking of all shellfish in the Kaikoura area, including paua.

Reid said seafood exports ranked as New Zealand's fourth or fifth largest export earner and the annual loss of revenue to New Zealand through black market activity was in the millions of dollars.

A range of items used by Dickson during his offending – including dive gear, a boat and freezers – were forfeited to the Crown.

 - Stuff

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