David Egerton, 54, of Otautau, Michael Egerton, 45, of Tuatapere and Allan Rickard, 52, of Cromwell were sentenced in the Invercargill District Court on Monday 18 November.
The men were fined $5,625 each and ordered to pay fees and Court costs of $1,282.87 per person, bringing the total penalties to $6,907.87 each, and totalling $20,723.61 altogether. In addition, three nets were forfeited.
Judge Stephen Harrop said in his sentencing remarks that the primary purpose of the sentence was to deter the defendants and others and to denounce the defendants’ conduct. While the defendants had complied with the Whitebait Fishing Regulations, separate authority is still needed to fish in the National Park.
The sanctity of National Parks is enshrined in legislation, Judge Harrop said.
It is an offence under the National Parks Act 1980 to carry out whitebait fishing in a national park without a specific authority.
The penalties for an offence under the National Parks Act include fines up to $100,000, a term of two years’ imprisonment or both.
Judge Harrop said the maximum penalties, providing potentially for both imprisonment and a fine to be imposed show how seriously Parliament regards any offending in national parks.
DOC’s Colin Bishop says the sentences will be a good deterrent to other fishers skirting the rules.
“We have spent a lot of time and energy on educating people and communicating directly with fishers in this area about where they can and can’t fish. Whitebaiting in National Parks without authorisation is illegal.
“Most people do follow the rules – this sentence will be a good deterrent to anyone who was considering otherwise.”
Whitebait are juveniles of six species of native fish: giant kōkopu, banded kōkopu, shortjaw kōkopu, inanga, kōaro and common smelt. Those that escape the whitebait net grow into adults ranging from 10 to 60 centimetres long. four of the six whitebait species are categorised as either threatened or at risk of extinction.
DOC administers whitebaiting regulations that cover methods of fishing, location of whitebaiting sites, legal fishing times and net size. Illegal whitebaiting carries a maximum fine of $5000 and whitebaiting equipment can be seized.
Under section 60(1)(h) National Park Act it is an offence to carry out whitebait fishing in national parks without authority.
DOC patrols whitebaiting sites and talks to whitebaiters throughout the season to ensure people are complying with the regulations.
Whitebait information can be found online while Whitebait regulation pamphlets are also available at sporting shops and DOC offices.