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Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

A Tolaga Bay commercial fisher has been fined $5,500 for landing 147 undersize rock lobster.

Richard Te Teira Meihana (46) was sentenced in the Gisborne District Court (23 May) on one charge under the Fisheries Act, following a successful prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Mr Meihana was the skipper of the Aruana III and from 20 January to 21 January 2021, he was using the commercial fishing permit of Connie Irene Pewhairangi-Potae, who owns the vessel and was also charged and convicted under the Fisheries Act.

The legal size for landing spiny red rock lobster from the CRA 3 area is 54mm for male and 60mm for female. There’s also a concession period during the months of June, July, and August where male rock lobster can be taken with a tail width of 52mm. Both measuring tools were on board the vessel, but Mr Meihana was measuring the rock lobster with the concession period tool.

Electronic reporting submitted to MPI showed Mr Meihana landed 220kgs of rock lobster. However, the Licenced Fish Receiver reported the undersize rock lobster.

“Fisheries New Zealand expects commercial fishers to know the rules around catch and size limits. Rock lobster is a high end kaimoana and taking these fish undersize threatens sustainability. The rules are there for a reason and when we find they’re not being followed, we will take action,” says Fisheries New Zealand regional manager fisheries compliance Jodie Cole.

All 147 undersize rock lobster were returned to the sea alive.

The fishing vessel and commercial permit owner, Connie Irene Pewhairangi-potae (69) was convicted and discharged, but her vessel, Aruana III has been forfeit to the Crown along with an outboard engine and a tandem trailer. In her defence, she told the court her skipper had been reminded of the size limits for rock lobster.

“Our job is to protect the fishing resources to ensure they’re sustainable into the future. Taking undersize rock lobster may have been a mistake – but it has consequences,” Jodie Cole says.

MPI encourages fishing industry operators and non-commercial fishers to report any suspected illegal activity through the Ministry’s 0800 4 POACHER line (0800 47 62 24).