Kaikoura, named after the Maori words for food (kai) and lobster (koura) is in the news again, and not for being a staunch advocate for marine ecology.
If you’re a tourist that’s ever eaten crayfish in Kaikoura, perhaps after a whale watching excursion, you may want to ask where it was sourced from next time you visit.
It looks like the locals have been turning a blind eye to a long term, thriving black-market in crayfish. Apparently, they know it’s been going on but considered it wasn’t any of their business to protect either the animal or the town’s reputation.
“An undercover officer from MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) bought 1200 cooked crayfish from recreational fishermen during “Op 15”.
Fairfax understands some were bought out of people’s freezers at private properties and after deals were made at pubs.
An anonymous source said a lot of people in Kaikoura knew what was going on, but it was not “the average civilian’s” job to do anything about it.
Under the Fisheries Act, catching and illegally selling crayfish is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
MPI seized 10 cars, five boats and a tractor when they searched 32 properties and more than 40 people were caught.
Compliance director Dean Baigent said there had been a “thriving” black market in Kaikoura for some time.
Recreational black-marketers were selling whole cooked rock crayfish for between $10 and $15 each, he said…” source
Crayfish and whitebait have been considered to be the ‘unofficial currency of New Zealand,’ this practice is probably more widespread than you, or the MPI, realise.
The operation to haul in the offenders was called Op 15, same as the imprint on the drug OxyContin, a narcotic analgesic with a high potential for abuse. Perhaps that’s why the MPI chose it.
Some other Kaikoura stories