25 January 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) inspected about 30 vessels this week during patrols over the east coast of the North Island, which is known to be fertile ground for rock lobster.
The two-day patrols, involving a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) NH90 medium utility helicopter and an MPI vessel monitored fishing activity from Poverty Bay to East Cape.
MPI’s Fisheries Chief Compliance Officer Richard Ratapu said there was a high level of compliance with regulatory requirements, a marked improvement on similar patrols conducted in previous years.
Flight Lieutenant George McInnes, an aircraft captain from the RNZAF’s No.3 Squadron, said the use of the NH90 helicopter for the patrols enabled MPI’s compliance officers to cover about 1000 kilometres in two days.
“The aerial patrol provided MPI an immediate snapshot of the level of fishing activity within a wider targeted area than would be possible from a patrol using surface vessels,” he said.
“The NZDF supports other government agencies in protecting our resources and our borders, and this is another example of such inter-agency collaboration.”
Last year Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash reduced by more than half the total allowable catch (TAC) for rock lobster in Hauraki Gulf-Bay of Plenty, following reports that stocks in the area were “at critically low levels”.
As part of efforts to rebuild the crayfish stock, Mr Nash also asked MPI to work with scientists and the industry to further improve monitoring and management of rock lobster stocks.
“Although these patrols were conducted in a different area, they are meant to ensure compliance with fisheries regulations and are part of efforts to help keep rock lobster stocks sustainable for future generations,” Mr Ratapu said.