Pāua, crayfish sales haul on Facebook: 250 cases uncovered this year

This posting appeared on a Southland buy and sell group page just before Christmas.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it has been alerted to more than 250 cases this year where people have tried to sell recreationally caught seafood on Facebook.

The issue attracted attention in Southland just before Christmas, with at least three posts on local group buy and sell sites offering seafood for sale. Onewas for fresh pāua said “trades or swaps 2kgs left”. Another was for 1kg of fresh pāua and 700g of frozen, while the third advertised nine “Fiordland lobster” tails “snap frozen straight off boat”.

An MPI spokesperson said the ministry was investigating several reported illegal fish sales on social media in the Southland area.

Another recent post.

“For good reason, we cannot disclose the stage at which our inquiries are or what methods we use to acquire best evidence.”

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The three posts advertising the pāua and crayfish angered members of the Spearfishing Southland group Facebook page. In a discussion on the site about the online advertising of seafood, one spearfishing group member said he had reported three incidents to MPI.

This Facebook post was for crayfish.

Another spearfishing group member, Andy Smith, who also runs an open community page with the same name, said after he had replied to the post for the crayfish tails after spotting it. 

“I put a message up myself saying, ‘Do you realise, it’s illegal what you’re doing?’ Fifteen minutes later, the post was gone,” he said.

He wasn’t aware of many cases where seafood was advertised in Facebook posts. “I see it happen sometimes, but it usually gets taken down pretty quick,” 

Smith questioned why people would take the risk of advertising on popular Facebook sites, and he wondered whether some of them might be unaware it’s illegal to sell or trade seafood that isn’t caught commercially.

Other people would be selling or trading seafood illegally without publicising it on the internet, Smith said.

“I know it happens in the oyster season,” he said. “People will sell 50 oysters a day for cash, not on Facebook but around town.”

Even the amount of fish and shellfish recreational fishers were allowed in Southland was far more than was needed to feed a family. “Unless you have a family of 20, you don’t need that much fish.”

The MPI spokesperson said buying, selling or swapping recreationally caught seafood is against the law. Maximum fines are $250,000.

Authorities expected such illegal activity would rise with the warmer weather and people gathering more seafood than usual for social occasions during the holidays.

“While we may not be able to reply to everyone who messages us over the Christmas-New Year holiday period, we do monitor our regional and main Facebook sites regularly and people can rest assured that all reported illegal sales are followed up by us,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s always disappointing to see people flouting the rules. What is great, however, is an increase in the number of people who approach us via our various channels to report suspicious or illegal behaviour.”

 – Stuff

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