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$16,000 fine for fishing in West Coast marine reserve

December 13th, 2017

A Nelson man has been fined $16,000 for commercial fishing in a West Coast marine reserve.

Leon Taswell Wallace pleaded guilty in Nelson District Court to the charge of taking marine life for commercial purposes from Kahurangi Marine Reserve.

Department of Conservation rangers in a helicopter saw a commercial fishing boat trawling in Kahurangi Marine Reserve on 23 September 2016.

It was later established that Wallace was the skipper of the boat at the time. The charts on board were old and didn't show the marine reserve. The chart plotter device also wasn't working. Wallace told DOC rangers he wasn't aware of the marine reserve.

The $16,000 fine imposed by Judge Ruth is the largest fine given for commercial fishing in a marine reserve and the judge said commercial fishers need to ensure they fish in appropriate areas.

DOC Buller Operations Manager Bob Dickson said people fishing have a responsibility to ensure they know where marine reserves are and their boundaries.

"Kahurangi Marine Reserve is one of five West Coast marine reserves established more than three years ago. They all lie alongside national parks, creating mountains to sea protected areas."

"This case is a reminder that people who fish inside these marine reserves can expect to be prosecuted."

Commercial fishing in a marine reserve has penalties of a fine of up to $250,000 or up to three months' imprisonment or both. Equipment used in the offending, including vessels, can be forfeited.

Kahurangi Marine Reserve covers approximately 84 square kilometres and is one of New Zealand's largest marine reserves. It protects 16 kilometres of coastline out to 5 kilometres offshore. It borders Kahurangi National Park and the Heaphy Track Great Walk.

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