A BLITZ on illegal abalone fishers on the South Coast has resulted in the apprehension of six people and the seizure of more than 600 abalone, Department of Primary Industries’ manager of special operations, Tony Andrews, said on Friday.
“Illegal abalone fishing is a serious crime, and impacts on the viability of this resource for future generations,” Mr Andrews said.
“Two people, a 41-year-old man who is a known repeat offender and a 44-year-old woman, both from Sanctuary Point were apprehended by DPI fisheries officers at Tura Headland, north of Merimbula, in December 2013, after reports of suspicious diving activity.
“Fisheries officers attended and in a joint operation with NSW Marine Area Command, conducted surveillance of the area.
“A search of the car containing the alleged offenders revealed 182 shucked abalone and a set of diving gear.
“The pair is facing a number of charges including possession of shucked abalone, and traffic in indictable fish species which carries maximum fines of $88,000 and imprisonment for 10 years.”
In the second matter, a 19-year-old man and a 27-year-old man from Bega were apprehended after also being reported for suspicious diving activity at Long Point, Merimbula on January 31.
“Officers from the State-wide Operations and Investigations Group attended and intercepted the men as they returned to their vehicle and were found to be in joint possession of 88 abalone, 62 of which were a prohibited size,” Mr Andrews said.
“Officers seized the dive gear and abalone, which were able to be returned to the water alive.
“Both men face charges including possess more than the maximum quantity of fish in circumstances of aggravation and possess prohibited size fish in circumstances of aggravation which both carry fines of $88,000 or 18 months imprisonment, or both.”
In a separate incident, a 50-year-old man from Lidcombe and a 51-year-old man from Newington were apprehended by Fisheries officers at Kiola on February 2.
“Fisheries officers intercepted the men as they were leaving the coast and returning to Sydney and were found to be in possession of 379 abalone, 372 which were of a prohibited size,” Mr Andrews said.
“The abalone were dead and frozen and were seized, along with dive gear and eskies.
“Both men will be prosecuted in relation to an indictable and aggravated quantity of abalone and face penalties of up to $88,000 in fines and 10 years imprisonment.”
The possession limit for abalone in NSW is two per person in waters open to the taking of abalone and the minimum prescribed legal length is 11.7cm.
”Possession and size limits are in place to help protect the sustainability of the fisheries resources,” Mr Andrews said.
“Fisheries officers conduct targeted operations focussing on illegal abalone activity throughout the state, and strict fisheries rules apply to the take, possession and sale of abalone in NSW.”
Illegal fishing activity can be reported to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or by completing the on line report form at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au.