A man, described by the Department of Conservation (DoC) as the worst recidivist marine reserve offender they've seen, has been fined $3,000 in the North Shore District Court on Wednesday.
The man had previously pleaded guilty to three charges relating to offences under the Marine Reserves Act 1971 - without lawful excuse taking marine life from a marine reserve - that were laid by the Department of Conservation.
He was granted interim name suppression during his sentencing this afternoon by the sentencing Judge.
On March 24 2022, around 7pm, a DoC ranger received information a person was fishing from the shore within Auckland's Long Bay-Ōkura Marine Reserve.
The summary of facts on the case said weather conditions and visibility at the time were poor and the ranger requested assistance from Maritime Police and the police helicopter later assisted.
He returned to his vehicle and at 9:30pm the man was stopped by police leaving the marine reserve with the kayak used for fishing on a roof rack.
When spoken to, the man claimed he didn't fish in the reserve and produced three legal-sized snapper fish. However, when asked if he caught anything else, the man revealed a further 18 snappers that were in a bag in the car. His total catch was three times over the daily bag limit.
Then, on June 24 2022, a DoC ranger, using a telephoto lens, observed the man fishing in the same marine reserve. Efforts made to apprehend the man weren't successful and it's not known how many fish were caught.
The following day, he drove back to the marine reserve and was found to be fishing yet again. DoC searched the man's kayak and found three snappers. When questioned, the man claimed the snapper had been caught from outside the marine reserve.
These three offences come after the man was warned on numerous occasions not to fish in the marine reserve.
He was spoken to by DoC's Marine Reserve Ranges and Maritime Police in 2021 on five separate occasions and was slapped with a $600 fine.
"This is some very deliberate, calculated offending," Dylan Swain, DOC's Investigations Team Lead told Newshub.
"The offender has chosen to put a kayak on the roof of his car, drove away from his home suburb, far away from the closest beach to deliberately fish within the marine reserve, where he must've assumed he was guaranteed a catch.
"We view this offender as being the worst recidivist marine reserve offender that DOC has seen."
He also has previously pleaded guilty to two charges laid by the Ministry of Primary Industries in relation to other fishing offences.
During his sentencing, the man’s lawyer says he has taken responsibility for the charges.
The sentencing Judge fined him $3,000 for the DOC related charges and a further $1,000 for the two MPI charges, as well as the forfeiture of fishing equipment.
There are 44 marine reserves in New Zealand.
Swain says: "Marine reserves are established for New Zealanders to allow them to see the sea in its natural state. This allows all New Zealanders the opportunity to interact with marine wildlife as well as scientists to examine what an untouched marine environment looks like".
At Long Bay-Ōkura Marine Reserve, fishing, shellfish gathering, and any other disturbance of marine life are strictly prohibited.
DOC said if you see anyone you believe is breaking the law, contact them on 0800 DOC HOT.
"If you are heading on the water this summer, that is great. Go out and enjoy yourselves. If you are in a marine reserve, it is a no take zone. If we do find people taking within marine reserves, we will take very strong action as evidenced by today," Swain said.
More information on marine reserves can be found here.