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Joint Operation Busts Hawke's Bay Paua Poachers

A Royal New Zealand Air Force A109 Light Utility Helicopter conducts paua poaching patrols on about 300km of coastline in Hawke’s Bay.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force A109 Light Utility Helicopter conducts paua poaching patrols on about 300km of coastline in Hawke’s Bay.

30 October 2015

A New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) A109 Light Utility Helicopter has just completed patrols on about 300km of coastline in Hawke’s Bay, catching six groups that were taking paua illegally.

In a two-day operation in support of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), a crew from the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) No 3 Squadron focused on the coast from Akitio to Mahia Peninsula.

“This is another great example of the NZDF supporting other government agencies,” Air Component Commander Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) Kevin McEvoy said.

There was significant activity around Mahia yesterday when the patrol encountered several groups that were behaving suspiciously.

“Working with fishery officers on the ground, the patrol successfully intercepted a group of individuals who were being targeted as part of this operation. These individuals would not have been located without air support so this was a big win,” aircraft captain Flight Lieutenant Sam Estall said.

“Several individuals appeared to be flouting the paua regulations so MPI was very happy that we were able to catch them in the act.”

MPI Compliance Operations Manager Gary Orr said “the great team effort on the part of the RNZAF and MPI” will potentially lead to three prosecutions and five infringement notices being issued.

“Paua are valued by customary, recreational and commercial fishers alike. We need to protect our paua stocks so future generations can enjoy them,” Mr Orr said.

AIRCDRE McEvoy said the overt nature of an A109’s patrol allows MPI to have a strong visible presence.

“This sends a very clear message to the poachers that they can be hit at any time from the land, sea and from the skies. They have nowhere to hide,” he said.

“Many of these beaches and reefs are difficult and time-consuming to get to, so checking them from the air is a great way to detect fishing-related activities that would take days to cover by vehicle patrols.”

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