The Ministry for Primary Industries is advising people that it's not safe to eat kaimoana seized during its sting operations, despite requests from the public.
Earlier this month, more than 150 undersized pāua and nearly 3000 cockles that were illegally taken in Auckland were returned to the sea.
The ministry (MPI) compliance director Gary Orr said some people wanted the hauls - which include hundreds of kilograms of kaimoana held in cold storage as evidence each year - to go to vulnerable communities.
"Because we have no assurance over how that seafood was handled prior to us seizing it, it would just be too risky for us to donate it to food banks or anything like that," Orr said.
"As soon as the court proceedings are over, we will dispose of it back into the ocean, putting it back into the food chain."
They tried to immediately return to the sea any sealife seized during operations that might survive, he said.