An Oamaru man who took 18 times the daily limit of paua from the Waianakarua River mouth, including 123 undersized, was convicted in the Oamaru District Court yesterday.
Kevin Muldrew Orlowski, 43, sickness beneficiary, of Oamaru, was convicted for taking 184 paua on July 24, 123 of which were undersized. He was remanded at large and is due to appear in the Oamaru District Court for sentencing on December 4.
Fisheries Ministry lawyer Leonie Matahaere told the court that on July 24, a fisheries officer was parked at the Waianakarua River Mouth, a popular place for gathering paua.
It was a low tide that day, and the officer spotted Orlowski with a green backpack on, walking with an associate. Through binoculars, the officer saw him put the backpack on the ground and the associate was seen walking down to the car.
The court heard Orlowski was intercepted on his way down the track to the car and when asked about the backpack, he denied that he was carrying one and told the fisheries officer he was mistaken and it was a fence post he’d placed on the ground, not a backpack.
The officer then walked up the hill and located a green backpack in the location he’d seen Orlowski stop and place it on the ground. The officer could not locate any fence post or wood in the area.
The backpack contained 184 shucked paua, some of which were still wet in places.
Matahaere said the 184 meats were analysed by Ministry of Primary Industries scientists who concluded that 123, of the 184, were undersized.
The same day the defendant was interviewed and again denied any knowledge of the backpack or paua, continuing to state he had moved a fence post.
In the Oamaru District Court yesterday, Defence counsel Michael de Buyzer said Orlowski acknowledged his actions were “unwise” and he entered guilty pleas.
The associate Orlowski was seen with had not yet been charged, but Judge Maze said the number taken was still well in excess of the daily limit, even if the other person was to also be held to account.
Where a person is in possession of three times the daily limit, or more, they are deemed to posses those fish for sale.
The penalty range available, in respect of a fine, is up to $250,000.
That fine can be reduced to $100,000 if the defendant can prove the fish were not for sale.
de Buyzer said it was not unheard of for people to freeze meat in large quantities.
Judge Maze replied that freezing 18 times the daily limit would still be “unusual”.
Matahaere told the court that minimum size limits were “extremely important” to give shellfish a chance to breed before they are taken.
“When the limits are exceeded it can decimate local populations of fish,” she said.
She submitted that taking that quantity should attract a fine of about $3000 – 4000, or 200 – 300 hours’ community work.