Expensive day’s catch

TROUBLE: Undersized scallops recovered by Honorary Fisheries Officers on October 26, 2015. Photo supplied.

Three men have been sentenced and fined a total of $3750 at the Manukau District Court in relation to a raft of fisheries offences. They also had to forfeit their boat and dive gear.

On February 2, Rian Stuart and brothers Tremain Maaka, Tobias Maaka were charged with possession of undersized snapper, undersized scallops and undersized kingfish.

A total of 217 scallops were located by fisheries officers, of which 192 were undersized.

One kingfish measuring 573mm (minimum size limit is 750mm) and two snapper measuring 290mm and 295mm in length (minimum size is 300mm) were also found.

In court, all three defendants admitted the offences and requested a fine instead of community service. Two of the defendants were fined $1500 and a third was fined $750.

A conviction and $500 fine was handed out to all three defendants for the possession of undersized scallops, as well as a mandatory forfeiture order made with respect to the boat they were using and dive equipment.

The possession of undersized kingfish and undersized snapper were classified as regulatory offences and therefore resulted in no conviction.

A $250 fine, however, was given to all three defendants for the kingfish charge. The charge for possession of undersized snapper was discharged.

Two of the defendants, Tobias and Tremain Maaka, were also charged with obstruction in the form of threatening language toward fisheries officers in the execution of their duties, were convicted and fined $750 each with the addition of court costs.

Tobias was convicted of a second obstruction charge for failure to comply with the lawful requirement of a fishery officer, by dumping scallops into the sea after being instructed not to.

The charges date back to the afternoon of October 26, 2015, when the men were found with undersized fish by three voluntary Honorary Fisheries Officers (HFOs) conducting routine fishing checks at Half Moon Bay.

They noticed a small boat coming into the ramp, before it reversed and sped toward the ramp at Little Bucklands Beach.

From there, it moved to Big Bucklands Beach, and the HFOs on duty mobilised their unit.

When introduced to the officers, the defendants confirmed they had all been involved in the fishing, and after chatting pleasantries, the HFOs declared they needed to count and measure the day’s catch before the men could leave.

This was met with derogatory language, swear words and threats from the defendants, and when one of the men walked over and started to interfere with the counting process, he was warned by the three HFOs to stop what he was doing, and told he was obstructing the HFOs in the execution of their duties.

He ignored these instructions and proceeded to carry some of the catch back to the water’s edge, throwing a bunch of the undersized scallops into the water.

With the continued threats, the HFOs started to feel intimidated and fear for their safety, despite remaining outwardly calm and in control.

After a minor stand-off, one of the defendants was able to calm the situation, while one HFO returned to counting the catch and another called for police.

The fine given was a very lenient sentence compared with what the prosecution would have liked, said Judge Sharon McAuslan at sentencing, but gave credit to the men for guilty pleas and lack of recent offending.

Two of the men have no previous convictions of this kind and all three have no record of offending for “a significant period of time”.

One of the defendants also provided proof of completion of a voluntary anger management programme, which was to his credit, the judge said.

She did, however, take a moment to ensure each of the defendants understood the situation “would have been quite frightening” for the HFOs at the time, and commented on the importance of protecting the fishery.

All three defendants said they were remorseful, accepted responsibility for their actions and apologised over the incident.

“Sorry. It’s the first time I did it and it’ll be the last time I do it,” said Tobias.

“I understand they’re just doing their job.”

Tremain also gave his “apologies to everybody involved”.

By: Staff Reporter