Wanaka and Queenstown anglers are among those accused of plundering the Jackson Bay fishery over the Christmas-New Year period.

The fishery was swarmed every day over the holiday period, and despite the presence of fisheries officers, locals said enough was not being done to prevent both illegal and greedy takes.

A rahui, or ban, imposed by iwi and the Minister of Fisheries on paua-take around the bay has had little effect and was proving ‘‘hard to police’’.

A Jackson Bay resident last week said ‘‘we counted 79 [boats] on Monday, with still more arriving as we left’’.

Even though fisheries officers kept watch over the holiday period, the local bemoaned the hours kept.

‘‘The [fisheries officers] are never there when people are coming in. You can still see the recreational boats coming in at 11pm.’’

Haast resident Barry Nicolle, who retired in 2022 as honorary fisheries officer for Jackson Bay, inspected more than 1200 vessels in his last year in the role.

Now, Mr Nicolle watches from his roadside home as convoys of boats pass.

‘‘There were 89 boats out there yesterday. It is the busiest time of year.’’

They came from Queenstown, Wanaka and surrounds, coming through in convoys of seven or eight boats at a time.

‘‘Ocean Bay [at Jackson Head] was the area they were targeting.

‘‘I would sit there until after dark waiting for them. If I had been there over Christmas, I guarantee there would have been at least 30 prosecutions.’’

Although the fisheries officers were not there every day, he said it was great to have them ‘‘waving the flag — it’s a deterrent’’.

Te Runanga o Makaawhio tangata tiaki Rob Wilson — a ministerial appointment for customary fisheries — said the officials needed to ‘‘take a hard look’’ at the recreational rules.

‘‘The commercial catch is governed by quota and proven to work.

‘‘In my opinion, those from Central Otago don’t see it as their own fishery — they look at it as something they can take.

‘‘It’s not up to [honorary fisheries officers] to look after fisheries — it’s up to MPI [the Ministry of Primary Industries].

‘‘I would hazard a guess we have just as many fishermen going out of Jackson as Milford Sound,’’ Mr Wilson said.

‘‘I sympathise with MPI, they seem underfunded and are hellishly nice people, but where do you put your finger in the boat to stop the water coming in?

‘‘They have only so many fingers and so many holes.’’

Mr Wilson said fish bag limits needed to be reduced, a vessel limit imposed and the accumulated catch limits reduced.

‘‘On a long weekend, a group can take their daily catch limit, stack it and take home — per person — six crayfish, 10 paua and 20 wetfish, with a maximum of 10 blue cod.’’

‘‘Ocean Bay has been devastated — paua was once stacked on top of each other, but now there is nothing there — nothing commercial or legal size.

‘‘People are travelling in from Central Otago, and instead of chilly bins they bring freezers. To me, that’s not recreation . . .’’

MPI regional manager fisheries compliance Garreth Jay said fishery officers had been at Jackson Bay since December 31, and the last officer left on January 11.

They conducted more than 100 inspections and sea patrols, finding ‘‘a small number’’ in breach of the rules. MPI were training two honorary officers who would be in the area year-round.