You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
The Department of Conservation is concerned about a sudden rise in poaching from the Hikurangi Marine Reserve near Kaikōura.
Senior marine ranger Dr Jody Weir said that during a visit to the site yesterday, she found many people unwittingly about to break the law.
"I've had over 90 interactions with people in just over an hour in the marine reserve and I'd say about half of those were looking for a place so they could take pāua."
People seemed genuinely surprised they cannot take the pāua, despite lots of signs carrying warnings, she said.
"There are huge signs that are visible both from the sea, so that if you're in a boat you can see the big yellow triangles on either end of the shore of the marine reserve section."
She said regardless of intention, people's actions may damage the reserve beyond repair, and everyone needs to pull together before it becomes a biodiversity catastrophe.
Penalties for taking marine life from a reserve include on-the-spot fines of up to $600 and if the case is prosecuted the penalties include three months in prison.