Hundreds of dead, under-sized scallops have been found in a bay in the Marlborough Sounds in what is believed to be a failed attempt to seed the shellfish.
Seeding scallops is illegal, as any undersize fish or shellfish caught must be returned to the sea quickly and as close to the area where they were caught as possible.
The Ministry for Primary Industries discovered the scallops in about three metres of water in Te Awaiti Bay last week. Compliance manager Ian Bright said someone had moved the scallops a long way from their natural habitat.
The shellfish were found in weed, in which they cannot grow in, and it was inevitable they would die. Mr Bright said the person had been caught, they would be facing serious fisheries charges.
The daily recreational bag limit for catching scallops in the area is 50 per person.