More than 6,251 marine invertebrates have been seized, 337 offences detected and $63,000 in fines issued in an operation designed to target illegal shellfish collection in the Sydney metropolitan region.
The issuing of fines has completed Operation Turbo Reef, an initiative of NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries Compliance Unit.
Acting Director Fisheries Compliance Brett Andrew said the operation is now in its seventh year and took place over the Australia Day long weekend.
“Many of the headlands of the Sydney region are Intertidal Protected Area (IPAs) or Aquatic Reserves,” he said.
“These areas are closed to the collecting of shellfish and invertebrates to protect marine life and conserve important habitat and nursery areas for marine species.”
“A new mobile squad has been established targeting compliance in these areas. These areas are highly valued by local communities for their biodiversity and as sites for education and research.”
He urged fishers to ensure they comply with fishing rules and regulations.
“Fishers are reminded that if they wish to collect invertebrates, they must ensure that they are doing so in an area that is open to collecting, pay the recreational fishing fee unless exempt, and stick to strict collection methods and bag and size limits,” he said.
Mr Andrew said knowing the rules and regulations is particularly important as consuming invertebrates from some Sydney waterways carries risk.
“Sydney Harbour is closed to the taking of shellfish due to elevated levels of dioxins that pose a health risk,” he said.
He said some of the alleged offences detected during Operation Turbo Reef involved serious violations of fisheries rules and regulations.
“A female from Lethbridge Park, who is already known to fisheries officers, was allegedly found in possession of 1,043 cockles taken from the closed waters of Kogarah Bay. It is alleged she committed two offences, with each carrying a maximum penalty of $22,000 or six months imprisonment,” he said.
“6,251 invertebrates including cockles, abalone, turban snails, lobster and octopus were seized during the operation. Fortunately the vast majority were returned to the water alive.”
Anyone with information on illegal activity is encouraged to call the Fishers Watch line on 1800 043 536 or Report illegal activity online.