Illegal fishers and buyers beware

Fresh bream for sale on social media

A man suspected of illegally selling fish taken without a commercial authority on the far south coast has been apprehended by fisheries officers following a surveillance operation by the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (NSWDPI) Statewide Operations & Investigations Group.

NSWDPI Fisheries Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully said the 48-year-old man from Bruce, ACT, was under surveillance in the Batemans Bay area and was observed allegedly exchanging fish for a quantity of cash at Hanging Rock boat ramp.

“Any person convicted of such an offence could face a maximum penalty of $110,000 for taking fish for sale when not the holder of a commercial fishing licence,” Mr Tully said.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said rules and regulations regarding the illegal sales of fish are in place for a reason.

“The illegal sale of seafood by unlicensed fishers not only poses a health risk to consumers, it also threatens the reputation of the legitimate NSW seafood industry who invest vast amounts of time and money to produce a safe product,” Dr Szabo said.

In another incident near Batemans Bay, fisheries officers in an operation targeting illegal lobster fishing apprehended a 37-year-old local man found in possession of 11 Eastern Rock lobsters, one of which was prohibited size, after diving at Garden Bay in Malua Bay.

“The daily bag limit and possession limit for Eastern Rock Lobster is two, these limits are to stop unlicensed fishers from accumulating large quantities of these high value species so they don’t end up on the black market and threaten the livelihood of licensed operators,” Mr Tully said.

“The man is expected to be issued with a court attendance notice where he could face maximum penalties of $66,000 in fines or 12 months in prison, or both.

DPI Fisheries also monitors illegal seafood sales of fish on social media.

“While many legitimate seafood businesses use social media to market their products, consumers should make sure they don’t buy fish from illegal, backyard operators, who are easy to spot,” Mr Tully said.

“Fisheries officers have recently prepared two offence briefs relating to illegal sales online and it is planned that the sellers will be issued court attendance notices.”

Anyone suspecting illegal fishing activity should report it to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or via the free FishSmart NSW app available from the App Store or Google Play. People can also report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/compliance.

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