A man who poached three suitcases of pāua from the Kaikōura fishery has been sentenced to seven months in prison, along with the forfeiture of his vehicle, suitcases, and dive gear used in the offending to the Crown.
Robert Jason Guild (40) was sentenced on 15 March in the Blenheim District Court on three Fisheries Act charges following a successful prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
He was also sentenced to a further seven months imprisonment, on unrelated charges.
The fishery, which had been closed in 2016 due to earthquake damage, reopened for a limited three-month season from 1 December 2021 and is currently closed.
On 11 December 2021, Guild fled a Fisheries checkpoint and attempted to dump the pāua he had poached back into the water, despite calls by fishery officers.
Guild had gathered 249 ordinary pāua that he had concealed inside suitcases after diving very early in the morning near Cape Campbell Lighthouse.
“This was witnessed covertly by a trainee honorary fishery officer,” said Fisheries New Zealand regional manager of fisheries compliance, Howard Reid.
The daily limit for recreational pāua gathers, at the time, was five pāua per person.
“He went to the trouble of leaving the pāua in the water, packed in suitcases and using binoculars to check whether he was under surveillance before returning to collect it. He also removed the number plates from his vehicle to evade possible identification. Clearly, he knew what he was doing was illegal.
“Guild was seen reversing his vehicle into the water to retrieve the suitcases, before driving towards Marfells Beach and a fisheries checkpoint. When he realised it was a checkpoint, he quickly u-turned, driving at speed back to the sea, entering the water in his clothes and attempting to empty the suitcases of pāua into the chest-deep water.
“Despite being directed to stop what he was doing by fishery officers, he ignored them and continued to dump the pāua. He then fled the scene but with the assistance of the Police, we caught up with him along the beach.”
Two recreational fishers assisted fishery officers by recovering the cases from the water. One case was zipped and full of pāua with the rest recovered from the sandy bottom.
“Our fishery officers work hard to protect the fishing resources from poachers. People should know there are consequences to breaking the rules,” Reid said.
Fishery officers counted about 250 pāua and nearly half of them were undersize. The pāua would have fetched around $2000 on the black market whereas the commercial retail value of the pāua was around $8300, MPI said.
“Guild admitted taking the pāua, knowing there were fishery officers at the checkpoint and fleeing because he ‘freaked out’. When we find evidence of people taking seafood illegally and deliberately, we will take action. The rules are there for a reason – to ensure fisheries are sustainable into the future.”
Guild has leave to apply for home detention.