Illegal shellfish catch

Just wondering what hosts would do. Our guests left behind shells of paua (or abalone if you are USA) collected after staying 2 days at our bach. They are ALL undersized and would incur a fine of NZD $250 if they were stopped by authorities. I’m thinking they were either ignorant of the law, or they just don’t care. Legal paua are virtually non-existent in our area, from this sort of behaviour. Not only that, but the toilet was blocked & I discovered this when I tried flushing it (paper left in the bowl). I spent half an hour unblocking it. No communication whatsoever from the guests. I would have thought it would be polite to let me know! Would you contact the guest to discuss the incidents before putting a negative post or should I just go ahead and post my very strong feelings about the two incidents?

Do you know if they just found the shells on the beach, or if they actually harvested illegal abalone? Was that what plugged the toilet, trying to flush the abalone they made inedible by cooking it incorrectly?

If they actually harvested them illegally, I would report them to authorities, the same as if I found my guests brought home fish when fishing was closed, or game hunted out of season.

As someone who grew up eating what we could harvest from the ocean and forest, I was taught that rules are there to protect a common resource for everyone. In Alaska, a fishing or hunting violation can kill a political campaign where other crimes wouldn’t.

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I did wonder about them finding the shells on the beach…but if they did, you think they would have commented, as this is a big “no no” in NZ. There was def fresh meat on the shells. Yes, as per political ramifications, this would apply here too. I can’t assume that they collected the shellfish, yet I feel justified in giving negative feedback, since there was no explanation offered. Do you think I shd phone them in advance of putting feedback on Air BnB to see what they have to say?

The CSR rep would have little concept about the illegality of the act.
You could only frame it as they broke local laws. That they may pay attention to.
I would eviscerate him in the review!

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I understand that you are not happy about the shellfish thing. It is not a violation of House Rules. It is “not relevant” to their stay or how they treated your place. Do not be emotional about this.
You are a HOST. They are your Guests. They paid to stay at your place.
A clogged toilet can happen. They were too embarrassed to say anything. With a good plunger, it is a quick fix. As this was the only real issue, they were good guests. Move on.
If you are honestly concerned then include in your communication to educate guests about paua collection. So, you can leave POLITE private comments to the guest when you review them. And give the good review they deserve.


Communicate with them only through the Airbnb thread for your protection. The toilet, as others have said is just part of hosting. If you post anything about the illegal activity, the guest might be able to get it removed as not relevant to the reservation itself. Don’t get into a long detailed review - brief and factual with whatever rating you choose. If you must, voice your stronger feelings in your private review. Based on my experience as a host and participating in this forum, aggravating guests in the messaging just makes for a messy, non-productive thread of back and forth.

Our house rules include “No illegal or commercial activities allowed on the property”.

Anyone familiar enough with the TOS to remember if that’s in there, too?

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I was going to write something similar. Jefferson is correct. And I agree that you can educated about the shells. Whether they know or not, it’s not really your issue but it’s a great teaching opportunity for future guests. Make a pretty sign with the picture and explain why and the penalties.


Sometimes people are uninformed. I accidentally harvested & kept illegal/too small clams.

Living & learning. I will educate myself before doing some like that again.

Maybe your guests (like me) were uninformed idiots.

Since you didn’t see the harvest, you can’t be sure what happened.

Like others have said, review accurately on what you know. Mention the shells in a private comment.

And I agree with others. Although it’s admirable that you care enough about local ecology, it’s not our job as hosts to enforce exactly what guests do when they are staying with us. Certainly if it’s a case of violent crime, human trafficking, child porn or similar then we should speak out but in this case, I’d be inclined to think that the guests were just unaware.

I like @Lynick4442 's idea of a pretty card - maybe your local authority has something already that you can put in your rental?

Regarding the blocked loo, that’s just something that happens to all hosts at some time or another and doesn’t mean that the guests were negligent. It could have been a blockage that had been building up for months.

Write an honest but unemotional, accurarate and short review about the guests. Remember that your problems or inconveniences are not relevant. For instance:

Move on.


Both! I do think we as hosts are responsible to not bring in guests that are going to harm the community we host in.

And, if the hosts knows they did something action should be taken. But, in this case it’s not 100% clear so everyone’s advice to give private, polite feedback seems appropriate this time.

I think you should tell the guests about the shells and that harvesting them is illegal, but I’m not sure about the review or reporting them to the authorities. Would your local authorities would even bother investigating based on the evidence you found? Unless your guests admit to it, I doubt anything could or would be done.

I don’t understand. What makes you think that guests are aware of local laws regarding shellfish harvesting?

If you don’t have this information posted somewhere, and there aren’t any signs on the beach, why would you assume they knowingly did something illegal?

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Isn’t NZ still closed to most foreign tourists? If these are New Zealand visitors is this the kind of law that is widely known? In other words, is ignorance really a legitimate excuse in this case?

Although it’s not a host’s job to enforce environmental law, it is the host’s job to review the guest’s behavior. You can state as a fact in your review that these guests “left behind undersized paua shells.” It’s no different than saying guests left behind their garbage. Leave out any editorializing about how that makes you feel. If it’s something the next host might be concerned with then they will be alerted.

Assume they didn’t know the rules. It’s the generous thing to do, as well as the most likely. What is the point of even telling them now? You’ll ruin their vacation and those paua will still be dead.

But it spotlights your opportunity to save future paua. Make signage as others suggest. Don’t just say “It’s illegal to harvest small paua.” Use it as a chance to give people a native’s insight about the beauty of your area, which is the kind of personal touch guests love.

If you feel it’s needed because it’s such a common offense, you can also include in your prearrival email something like “We value our native ecosystem and enforce rules against illegal taking of wildlife. Please ask us if you have questions about local laws such as limitations on paua harvesting.”

If it’s accidental, as it probably was, there’s no reason to put it in the guests’ review. But if you feel strongly about it, “They left a pile of underweight paua shells in the room. I wish I’d told them that harvesting young paua is illegal in this area because it probably wasn’t intentional” lets future hosts draw their own conclusions about their actions.

When I had my uninformed idiot clam event, I lived full time at the beach. I wasn’t a shellfish-er so totally oblivious.

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I’m sure my view has been altered by my time spent in NZ with an environmental scientist. She makes it sound like policies are well known and that anyone who violates them should be metaphorically shot on sight.


On the CA coast, any abalone harvesting is strictly forbidden right now. Any fisherman, shellfish collector or hunter knows that their first duty is to inform themselves of the local laws first—all of them are essentially local and state-by-state here in the US—so ignorance is no excuse.

It would be beyond the Pale if one of our guests collected abalone in one of our inlets. Here in CA, I would not ignore it.


But how does the guest fit into any of those categories? It seems to me that they might have been totally ignorant.

I wouldn’t expect my guests to be aware of local laws unless I informed them.

I have no idea if these guests were aware of the restrictions, but I find it strange to assume that they knowingly did something illegal that is specific to an area.


But the host found shells. He didn’t see or have a recording of the harvest or opening the shells. While it is likely they harvested, there is no proof. Without proof, their response is “ we didn’t do it” or “ we didn’t know…”.

I’m not saying it was right. This is a case of idiot guests or the host misinterpreting what was found. We don’t know which.

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