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Undersized fish die by the thousands in mystery ship's wake
By Nicola Boyes

The New Zealand Herald

9th October 2004

Ministry of Fisheries officers are investigating after thousands of undersized snapper and gurnard were found floating 20km off the Raglan coast behind a trawler.

Recreational fishermen in the area said the dead fish stretched "as far as the eye could see" behind the vessel.

Rob Kirkwood was fishing in the area about 11am on Saturday when the boat he was on pulled up near the trawler.

Thousands of fish were floating in a trail behind the vessel, he said.

"I feel that they killed more fish and left them for dead than all of the recreational fishermen took that day home to eat," Mr Kirkwood said.

"It's a damn shame, a terrible waste of nature's resource."

Mr Kirkwood said many of the fish were undersized snapper and gurnard.

"They are killing the fish and leaving them for dead. It was really just a crying shame."

Ministry of Fisheries officers chartered a helicopter on Saturday to fly over the area where the trawler was operating after being told about the dead fish by recreational fishers.

Fishery officer Pat Lynch said they wanted to talk to anyone who picked up the dead fish or recorded the number or name of the commercial trawler.

"This is a potentially serious incident from a fisheries management perspective and from comments made to us clearly has infuriated many West Coast recreational fishers."

Mr Lynch said it was not clear if the fish had been dumped, the boat had suffered a gear failure or what had happened.

He said recreational fishermen brought in some of the dead fish as evidence and gave them to honorary fishery officers working in Raglan.

The minimum legal size for commercially fished snapper is 25cm and the fishing industry imposes its own limit for gurnard of 30cm.

But Mr Lynch said recreational fishers had not brought in any of the undersized fish so it was not known how small they were.

He said there was a legal requirement for any undersized fish caught to be put back straight away.

Legal-sized fish caught by commercial operators had to be recorded and kept.