Ignorance was ruled as no excuse last Friday in the Tauranga District Court, where fines and costs totalling $1650 were imposed on three men caught fishing in the Tuhua (Mayor Island) Marine Reserve last January.
The men from Whangamata and Auckland, were interviewed and their fishing rods and equipment seized, by Department of Conservation (DOC) staff whilst on a routine patrol of the marine reserve, 35km off the coast from the Tauranga Harbour entrance.
At the trial last Friday the men pleaded guilty and were ordered by the Community Magistrate to pay fines of $400 each, DOC costs of $150 each, and to forfeit the seized fishing rods. Despite the markers on shore, the offenders claimed to be unaware that they were within the reserve, but were found to have had a GPS unit on board that showed the marine reserve boundaries.
“This case serves as a warning and reminder that marine reserves are no-go areas for fishing. If caught, fishermen will be prosecuted” says DOC Ranger, Dave Wills who recorded the offence. “People have a responsibility to ensure they know the rules and where the boundaries of marine protected areas are, in the same way that they need to know the recreational fishing regulations”.
Aerial view of Tuhua (Mayor Island)
Under the Marine Reserves Act (1971), penalties for taking marine life include up to three months in prison, fines of up to $10,000 and possible forfeiture boats and fishing equipment.
The Tuhua Marine Reserve has been in place since 1993, and covers an area of approximately three square nautical miles at the northern end of Tuhua. It is one of just two such reserves in the Bay of Plenty and thirty throughout New Zealand, established to protect unique and representative examples of marine species and habitats in their natural state, so that they can be enjoyed by present and future generations through diving, observation and scientific study.
DOC plans to continue its regular compliance patrols of Tuhua Marine Reserve especially through the summer fishing season and will be working with Ministry of Fisheries and NZ Navy on joint compliance monitoring.
The Department appreciates any help or information from the public to assist in managing the Marine Reserve.
Please contact Daniel Rapson at DOC’s Tauranga Area Office, ph: +64 7 571 2734 or 0800 DOC HOT (0800 36 24 68) with any relevant information or observations.