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A four-year prison sentence, with a non-parole period of two years, for a Dunedin paua poacher has been welcomed by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Ryan Karl Tapsell (40) was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court on Friday after being convicted of 15 Fisheries Act 1996 charges in relation to falsely obtaining a customary authorisation to take paua, illegally taking paua and selling paua without a permit.
Equipment used in the offending, including two vehicles, a boat and outboard motor, several cellphones and a large amount of diving gear was forfeited to the Crown.
The penalty was one year short of the maximum sentence allowed under the Fisheries Act - five years or a $250,000 fine.
MPI Otago district compliance manager Murray Pridham said he was pleased to see the courts taking a strong stance.
''This sentence shows that offenders will receive significant prison time for committing serious fisheries offences.''
Black market dealings in paua were effectively theft of a national resource and poachers not only risked fish stocks but were stealing from their communities.
The offending was premeditated and a complex commercial enterprise that might well have undercut legitimate operators who relied on fish dealers to buy their product, not to mention the potential health effects from paua that had not been processed in accordance with the required health standards, Mr Pridham said.
It was estimated about 1580 paua were taken and that such operations posed a threat to the sustainability of the paua fishery.
Tapsell targeted the same area each time without any regard for the impact on the fishery, Mr Pridham said.
His decisions also undermined the customary authorisation system.
There is a limit of 10 paua per person per day, at a minimum of 125mm.
''We also greatly appreciate the support of the community in reporting poachers and those who break the rules. If you see people acting suspiciously, we want to know about it.''