A commercial fisherman who was identified by two dive charter operators has been handed $25,000 in penalties for fishing in a prohibited area.
Kaitaia man Ty Thomas McQuarrie, 26, pleaded guilty in Whangarei District Court to one charge of taking fish by long line within one nautical mile of the prohibition area of the Poor Knights Marine Reserve.
In what the Ministry for Primary Industries describes as a "test case", McQuarrie was fined $7500 and ordered to pay $3200, which was the proceeds from the sale of fish.
He was ordered to pay a further $15,000 in redemption fees for the return of his vessel, Extreme Limits.
The MPI said McQuarrie began setting a bottom long line north of the Poor Knights Islands about 3.30am in April last year, deploying 4500 hooks.
About 7am, he began hauling the line and was two thirds of the way through when a dive charter boat operator saw him and recorded the vessel's position.
Another dive charter operator also suspected McQuarrie was inside the restricted area.
McQuarrie continued hauling in fish, despite warnings about being in a prohibited area, and later berthed at Tutukaka, where he sold his catch.
MPI Northland district compliance manager Stephen Rudsdale said an investigation found Extreme Limits was between 700 and 800 metres inside the commercial long line restricted area.
He said McQuarrie told investigators the GPS data from the dive charter operators did not appear to have been calibrated and might have been unreliable.
MPI obtained a report from a geodetic surveyor who concluded the GPS systems were correct.
"The evidence was compelling," Mr Rudsdale said.
"We relied heavily on the two dive charter operators' evidence. Their work was absolutely vital in this case."