Otago pair sentenced for illegal Facebook pāua sales

By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission.

A North Otago couple have been ordered to do a combined 360 hours of community service and have been placed on 12 months supervision for online sales of poached pāua.

Sheryl Maafu, 49, and Niuila Maafu, 59, were sentenced in the Ōamaru District Court yesterday. (Source: Supplied)

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said in a statement this morning Sheryl Maafu, 49, and Niuila Maafu, 59, were sentenced in the Ōamaru District Court yesterday on a joint charge of illegally selling pāua under the Fisheries Act.

“Sheryl Maafu was ordered to do 200 hours community work, while Niuila Maafu was ordered to do 160 hours community work.

“A 2019 Ford Ranger and a 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe, along with a range of diving gear, was forfeited to the Crown.”

MPI said the pair sold pāua meals through a Facebook site and “obtained customary permits for fictitious birthday events to gather pāua”.

Fisheries New Zealand’s Ian Henderson said “it’s illegal to sell recreationally caught seafood and the Maafus knew this”.

“They also broke the trust of a tangata tiaki by gaining customary permits for various birthday events that never happened – yet they gathered and kept the pāua.”

MPI said that in May 2023, a fishery officer became aware of a package being couriered from Ōamaru that contained pāua. The package was intercepted and found to contain about 12kgs of minced pāua.

“Fisheries NZ was also tipped off about an online site owned by Sheryl Maafu called Always Kingdom Fundraiser which was advertising meals for sale, including creamed pāua for $10 a meal.

“After a Fisheries NZ investigation was launched, search warrants executed in June 2023 at two premises in Kakanui and Ōamaru and the bank accounts of Sheryl Maafu were examined.

“At the Kakanui building investigators found 139 shucked pāua of which 129 were less than the legal size. At the Ōamaru property they found 513 pāua shells of which 442 were less than the legal size.”

In July 2023, fishery officers interviewed the pair about poaching pāua.

“They admitted illegally selling recreationally gathered pāua through online Facebook sales which they were doing by either cash or bank deposits. Sheryl Maafu, who organised the customary authorisations, told us she knew what she was doing,” Henderson said.

In total, investigators found 621 ordinary black foot pāua shells. In 2023 this amount of pāua, based on the minimum shellfish size, had a commercial retail value of $8281.

Additionally, 22.65kgs of pāua that was seized from the Maafus held a commercial value of $3827.

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