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The Department of Conservation has asked a Greymouth court for harsher penalties for those caught breaching the whitebait regulations, saying the fishery is "under threat" and offending on the rise.
Doc prosecutor Mike Bodie asked for fines to be increased from between $350 and $500 to $1000 in the Greymouth District Court on Wednesday.
Four people were appearing for breaches of the regulations last whitebaiting season.
Mr Bodie said whitebaiting prosecutions had increased in five years from 40 to 70, excluding those who had been sent warning letters for non-compliance.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg and fines of $350 are not deterring illegal whitebaiting, which is occurring season after season."
If the fines were higher, whitebaiters may not take the risks.
"The fishery on the West Coast needs to be looked after and people need to play by the rules so it is sustainable for the future."
Judge Gary MacAskill said he was not going to make an example of those who were facing breaches in the court, but he agreed that in future there was a need for greater fines and he would note that it should be further considered.
Paul Clint Greaves, of Kumara Junction, admitted a breach on October 11 on Waimea Creek, at Awatuna, when he left his net unattended for between 30 and 40 minutes.
Greaves was convicted and fined $425 and his fishing gear was forfeit.
Henry Pomana, of Haast, was convicted and fined $750 for fishing out of hours when he was caught by two DOC rangers on the Okuru River at 4.50am on November 11. It is an offence to fish for whitebait between 9pm and 6am.
Ralph Alexander Carr, of Tuatapere, was convicted and fined $750 for failing to set the screen at the water's edge on the Waiatoto River on October 13.
Alexander John Nicholls-Braddock, of Okuru, admitted two charges of using a net and screen in the water with about 1m of between the screen and the water, which is illegal.
A Doc ranger asked Nicholls-Braddock to wait while he took exact measurements, but he removed it from the river.
Later that day the ranger again observed him fishing illegally. When another fisherman alerted him to the ranger's presence, Nicholls-Braddock pulled his net in and yelled at the ranger, accusing him of harassment.
Nicholls-Braddock was convicted and fined $1000.