The kingpin of an Otago paua poaching ring has been sentenced to four years behind bars for illegally catching the delicacy and selling it on the black market.
Ryan Karl Tapsell, 40, from Dunedin, was sentenced in Dunedin District Court on Friday to four year's jail on 15 charges acquiring false documents and taking and selling paua without a permit.
Tapsell was the main offender in an Otago paua poaching operation that was disbanded in "Operation Apollo", the Ministry for Primary Industries says.
MPI watched the group, which onsold the paua to local fish and chip shops, for nearly a year in 2010 and 2011.
Several other poachers were also arrested in the operation.
More than 1580 paua shells were found at Tapsell's home, with MPI estimating between 400 and 500kg of seafood was illegally sold.
"Black market dealings in paua are effectively theft of a national resource. Poachers not only risk fish stocks but they are stealing from their communities," MPI Otago compliance manager Murray Pridham said in a statement on Monday.
Tapsell was given a two-year non-parole period and will be up for release in September 2015.
It's the latest in a string of prison sentences handed out for paua poaching.
In August, Day Van Tang was sentenced in Nelson District Court to 11 months in jail for his second conviction for paua poaching.
Last November, Pele Pele Lemalu was sentenced to one year behind bars after he was caught at Makara and Pukerua Bay, near Wellington, with hundreds of paua he had intended to sell.
Accomplices Aaron Karatiana and Neru Kome were both given home detention sentences.