Otago paua poaching ringleader sentenced to prison after MPI investigation
A 40 year-old Dunedin man has received a prison sentence in the Dunedin District Court for his role as the primary offender in a large Otago paua poaching operation.
On Friday, Ryan Karl Tapsell was sentenced to four years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years, after being convicted of fifteen charges under the Fisheries Act 1996 in relation to falsely obtaining a customary authorisation to take paua, illegally taking paua and selling paua without a permit. Mr Tapsell also had a significant amount of equipment used in the offending forfeited to the crown including two vehicles, a boat and outboard motor, several cell phones, and a large amount of dive gear.
Between July 2010 and March 2011 the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) conducted an investigation named Operation Apollo which followed a group of paua poachers as they took excess paua from a closed commercial paua area and on-sold the paua to local fish and chip shops. The primary offender in this group was Mr Tapsell who would arrange for customary authorisations to be issued to him on the basis of fictitious events.
A customary authorisation is a privilege that allows the holder to take more than the daily limit of paua for a specified event on a single date authorised by the local Tangata Tiaki. Tapsell however, would use these authorisations to take fish from the date of issue until the actual specified date permitted for the taking. In addition he managed to convince the local Tangata Tiaki to issue him authorisations which allowed extensions of time and would then repeatedly dive the same authorisation gathering the total or close to the total each time he went out diving. More....