Bay of Plenty fishery officers have busted a black market paua and kina operation and seized more than 100kg of the delicacy.
Houses and businesses in Tauranga and on Motiti Island were raided yesterday and today.
The officers seized two freezers containing 116kg of paua with a commercial value of $15,000. The paua was minced and frozen in 500g and 1kg bags.
They also seized diving gear and 35 electronic devices, including computers, tablets and cellphones.
The Ministry for Primary Industries alleges the ring's divers were gathering paua and kina around Motiti Island and selling them to buyers in Tauranga, Whakatane, Hamilton and Auckland.
A Tauranga food business is alleged to also be involved in the sale.
MPI's Brendon Mikkelsen says they had been investigating the ring for a year.
During this time, it is believed 231kg of minced paua with a commercial value of $30,000 was poached and sold. It is believed 43 litres of kina were poached and sold for $3500.
"Paua and kina don't move around much and need to be in reasonable numbers to successfully reproduce. Such offending in concentrated areas may impact on the species ability to breed and on other peoples opportunity to gather," Mr Mikkelsen said.
"People like this are effectively thieving seafood from their own communities to make a quick buck."
Mr Mikkelsen said they would be going through the seized electronic equipment and further investigating before considering laying charges.