The owner of a retail seafood shop in Sunshine has been found guilty and fined $7500 with conviction and costs in the Sunshine Magistrates Court this week for trafficking rock lobster and selling abalone without authority.
Victorian Fisheries Authority Director of Education and Enforcement, Ian Parks, said rock lobster and abalone are classified as a priority species in Victoria and afforded special protections to ensure their fisheries remain sustainable.
“The shop owner had purchased rock lobster and abalone from legitimate sources in Victoria and South Australia but failed to maintain accounting records and issue receipts as per the regulatory requirements when trading these species,” Mr Parks said.
“Given that some rock lobster was sourced from South Australia, a joint investigation was undertaken with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA).
“Fisheries Officers issued a notice to the shop owner to provide invoices and receipts for over 6700kg of rock lobster, worth more than $500,000, which was sold between November 2014 and March 2018.
“The shop owner could only produce nine invoices, which identified a discrepancy of more than 6000kg of rock lobster.”
“Auditing of priority species is a key mechanism to ensure the traceability of high value seafood and prevents the potential laundering of illegally harvested fish.
“When a seafood retailer purchases rock lobster or abalone they must obtain a receipt for the fish so that, if inspected by Fisheries Officers, they can identify their origin and legitimacy.
“Receipts are also necessary to ensure traceability for food safety purposes. Sellers of abalone and rock lobster must also issue receipts to purchasers.”
Mr Parks said the joint investigation was a great example of interstate cooperation to achieve a successful outcome in a protracted and complex matter.
Anyone who sees or suspects illegal fishing, or illegal fish sales, is encouraged to report it by calling 13FISH (133474), anytime.