As the trout spawning season approaches, Fish & Game’s Eastern Region is stepping up its operations to target poachers and anglers fishing illegally.
The Eastern Region, which takes in the Rotorua Lakes and tributaries has a huge variety of fisheries, says Fish & Game Officer Anthony van Dorp. “They range from popular lakes and streams close to the city, to backcountry rivers.”
We run organised and random patrols and respond to tip offs from the public, but poachers can also expect to find themselves captured on film by a hidden ‘poacher cam,’ he says.
In the Eastern Region, staff and rangers typically deal annually with around 60 to 70 people, responsible for a total of around 130 offences. The most common offence is ‘fish without a licence’ closely followed by fishing with illegal tackle, and fishing in closed waters.
When the winter spawning season arrives, there’s often a surge in offending, Mr van Dorp says, usually in the small streams in the Rotorua Lakes District. “Trout in these small streams can be vulnerable to poaching, so we keep a close eye on them.”
In any given year in the Rotorua area, Fish & Game deals with as many as 20 people for poaching offences involving spawning trout. These include taking spawning trout with a net or spear, possession of net or spear in the vicinity of a spawning stream, and disturbing a spawning stream. “They are serious offences carrying penalties of up to 12 months in prison or a $10,000 fine.
“We also encounter a whole range of other varied offences, but usually dealing with only a handful of each. Fishing with more than one rod, giving false details, obstruction, and so on.”
Using the 2010 – 2011 year as an example, Eastern Rangers dealt with more than 60 offenders, who’d committed a total of 122 offences. Many were fishing with no licence and a third were using illegal tackle (including nets and trout eggs for bait), while others were fishing closed waters. Those caught by Fish & Game are dealt with in a variety of ways, not just through the courts.
Anthony van Dorp notes that Fish & Game and Police often work together, sharing information to intercept poachers, “and it works a treat!”
“Some of the offending carries prison terms as penalties and in those cases, people can be arrested by Police. In the past few years quite a number of trout poachers have been caught as a result of being tracked by Police dog teams in the vicinity of spawning streams.
“While most of our contact with the public is with law abiding licenceholders who stick to the rules – there’s a minority out there who are at the other end of the spectrum. They are the element who’ll break all the rules, and are well known to other law enforcement agencies.”
Anthony van Dorp is reminding people who see suspected poachers in action to sound the alarm: *0800 POACHING* (*0800*-762-244)