Fishery officer from New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have executed multiple search warrants at properties of people believed to be involved in a major black market crayfish ring stretching along the east coast of the country.
About 80 officers searched eight homes in the Māhia, Wairoa, Whakatane and Kawerau areas, beginning in the early hours of the morning. At some of these properties, they were supported by New Zealand Police.
This development marks the next phase of a six-month long investigation into an alleged black market crayfish ring.
‘We believe this was a highly organised black market ring which took in excess of 4300 crayfish with a commercial value of over $300,000 from the Māhia area in Hawkes Bay over a seven-month period,’ said MPI director of compliance services, Gary Orr.
MPI believes the crayfish were then sold on the black market in Auckland, Kawerau, Rotorua, Tūrangi, Gisborne, Napier, and Blenheim areas.
‘The investigation to date has focused on gathering evidence, including surveillance of alleged offending. Today’s search warrants will provide further information to support the investigation. We will be gathering a number of formal statements from suspects as part of this work,’ Gary Orr said, commenting that MPI fishery officers work hard to protect fishing resources from people who seek to profit illegally.
‘We hope today’s development sends a strong message to others tempted by greed – that we will do everything within our powers under the Fisheries Act to protect the fishing resources owned by all New Zealanders.’