Ten people have been apprehended across NSW for alleged illegal fishing offences, following a series of covert and overt operations by from the elite Statewide Operation and Investigations Unit (SOIG).
NSW DPI Fisheries Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said the SOIG teams are working with local fisheries officers using a wide variety of sophisticated investigation techniques and those flouting the rules should be concerned.
“We have had some great results across NSW on the North Coast, Illawarra, Hunter and South Coast. We have a range of surveillance technologies available to us and we’re employing them across the state, Mr Tully said.
“The vast majority of fishers do the right thing but unfortunately there is a small minority that does the illegal fishing and those responsible need to think about whether they’re being watched by our fisheries officers,” Mr Tully said.
The operations include:
North coast: A man from Iluka was found allegedly trying to rort the rules around commercial crab trapping. He is alleged to have exceeded the trap limit on his mud crab trapping licence after fisheries officers observed him tending at least 26 crab traps. Some of the traps were unmarked and at least one bore the markings of another commercial fisher.
In response to complaints about undersized School Prawns being sold for bait DPI Fisheries officers from Maclean seized approximately 575 kg of illegally retained prawns. The prawns were returned to the waters of Lake Wooloweyah and five commercial fishers were issued penalty notices of $1500 each.
Illawarra: A man from Towradgi was allegedly found taking too many lobsters from Wollongong Harbour in a pre-dawn sting by officers from SOIG’s Southern Regional Mobile Squad. The man was apprehended and he later made admissions about the illegal possession of 17 lobsters. He now faces charges of possessing a commercial quantity of a priority species, which carries a maximum penalty of $44,000.
Hunter region: Two men from Newcastle were found illegally possessing 13 Eastern Rock Lobsters, three of which were prohibited size near Port Stephens. SOIG officers observed a man leave a boat with the lobsters in an attempt to evade detection. The man was apprehended with the lobsters and the skipper was later detained at a boat ramp. Each man faces a maximum penalty of $44,000 each for possession of a commercial quantity of a priority species and prohibited size lobsters.
Merimbula: A Victorian man was apprehended with 106 yellowfin bream after fisheries officers watched the man and then searched a holiday cabin. All of the fish were in breeding condition and the man is expected to be prosecuted for the offence, which carries a maximum penalty of $44,000.
Anyone suspecting illegal fishing activity should report it to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or via FishSmart NSW app (available from the App Store or Google Play). People can also report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/compliance.