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Pāua poachers blocked in, caught by angry locals in Pāuanui

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Undersized pāua seized by a fishery officer in Pāuanui when local Hamish McNabb stepped in to block poachers.

Coromandel locals rallied together last week to stop three pāua poachers this week from leaving Pāuanui Beach with undersized pāua.

Locals are calling Hamish “Hammer” McNabb a hero after he confronted a man carrying a bag full of the kaimoana.

“It was low tide, and I could see them picking pāua off the rocks. We don’t get pāua here that is big enough to keep, so I knew what they were doing was wrong,” McNabb said.

Hamish McNabb detained pāua poaches at Pāuanui beach until fishery officers arrived.
Photo / Supplied
Hamish McNabb detained pāua poaches at Pāuanui beach until fishery officers arrived.
Photo / Supplied

McNabb said the poacher was being assisted by a woman and a second man. He parked his vehicle behind their van, preventing the three from leaving the area.

“I grabbed a bag [of undersized pāua] and tipped it out. I told him to stay put and rang the police – who gave me the number for [fishery officers].”

The 53–year-old father told the Herald he was concerned about pāua poaching in the area and its impact on the ecosystem. McNabb believes the delicacy is being distributed to restaurants in Auckland on the black market. “ The irony is Pāuanui means big pāua it should be renamed Pāua-nothing.”

Undersized pāua following an attempted-poaching at Pāuanui beach. Photo / supplied.
Undersized pāua following an attempted-poaching at Pāuanui beach. Photo / supplied.

The builder says he felt “a bit intimidated” confronting the three poachers and reached out to locals on social media for support.

“We contained them until the fishery officer arrived, which took more than an hour because he was coming from Whitianga. We boxed their van in and the locals gave them a piece of their mind. “

McNabb claims a second group of poachers dumped pāua back into the sea when they realised what was happening.

Hamish McNabb local builder rallied the  Coromandel locals to block pāua poachers until fishery officers arrived.. Photo / supplied.
Hamish McNabb local builder rallied the Coromandel locals to block pāua poachers until fishery officers arrived.. Photo / supplied.

Jamie McCaw who is a friend of McNabb’s says McNabb was “brilliant, calm and cool”.

“Hammer is a humble hero. When I turned up locals were there, they saw the shellfish and expressed their disgust. There was no aggression or threatening behaviour – just unity from the community that poaching is unacceptable,” McCaw said.

The poachers were of Asian descent and both friends said they were concerned that the handful of Asian locals in Tairua and Pāuanui could be ostracised as potential poachers.

Thomas Clark and his wife, Mary. He is worried his wife will be racially targeted as pāua poacher. Photo / supplied.
Thomas Clark and his wife, Mary. He is worried his wife will be racially targeted as pāua poacher. Photo / supplied.

“There has never been any anti-Asian sentiment here till now. Unfortunately some culprits are Asian but it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, if it was Māori I’d do the same thing,” McNabb said.

Pāuanui local Thomas Clark, 39, raised the situation on social media.

“Good on the guy for standing up to the pooachers. My wife is Chinese, and I don’t want locals to assume she’s the poacher. I’m like, ‘hey, if you see anyone Asian don’t jump to conclusions’. I lived in China for 10 years… I know how it feels to be ostracised as a foreigner.”

In a statement, Fisheries New Zealand regional manager fisheries compliance, Andre Espinoza, said: “Fishery Officers have been making inquiries into alleged poaching of pāua and kina on the Coromandel Peninsula following reports to our 0800 4 POACHER line.

Undersize pāua found at the Coromandel.  Photo / supplied.
Undersize pāua found at the Coromandel. Photo / supplied.

“They responded to a call and caught three fishers who had taken 65 undersize pāua from the south end of Pāuanui. These fishers will be formally interviewed by Fishery Officers, and it is possible they may face enforcement action.”

In total, 65 pāua, all undersized, ranging from 68-98mm, 11 kina, and 40 assorted whelks, snails and limpets were seized.

Hamish McNabb says he wants his six children, aged from 3 to 21, to have the same beach memories that he did.

“We are always gathering seafood in the weekend that’s our thing… I feel sad poachers do this to line their own pockets and not for a feed – they have no respect. My whole family is from this area, my grandparents and dad have gone, I’d like to think they’d be smiling on me for doing something about it.”

Carolyne Meng-Yee is an Auckland- based investigative journalist. She worked for the Herald on Sunday in 2007 and joined the Herald in 2016. She was previously a commissioner at TVNZ and a current affairs producer for 60 minutes, 20/20 and Sunday.



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