North coast eel thieves - caught and fined
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A 34-year-old man from Gulmarrad, near Maclean, will be prosecuted after he was caught illegally trapping eels in the Clarence River.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries' (DPI) Principal Manager, Regional Services, Mr Glenn Tritton said the man was caught on 22 July trapping eels near Baryulgil, northwest of Grafton.
Fisheries Officers seized the man's boat and motor, as well as seven eel traps. Over 70kilograms of eels were also seized and returned to the water alive.
"Fisheries officers saw the man committing a number of offences involving the illegal use of eel traps," Mr Tritton said.
"The maximum penalty for these offences is a $22,000 fine and/or a six month gaol term.
"The use of such traps is banned in freshwater rivers and streams - they can only be used in farm dams in NSW with a permit.
"One of the most concerning issues for DPI is that when illegally used in freshwater, eel traps can trap and drown air-breathing native wildlife such as platypuses, freshwater turtles and native water rats. These are all protected species."
In a separate incident, a 54-year-old man from Bulahdelah, was fined $4500, ordered to pay $567 in court costs, and had his boat forfeited after his case was heard by Taree Local Court on 27 July.
"The man was caught in May this year, twice in the space of two weeks, illegally trapping eels in the Manning River," Mr Tritton said.
"Following the first incident, NSW DPI issued a media release requesting help from the public to combat eel thieving activities. Using information provided by the public, the man was again caught illegally trapping eels.
"Landholders are an invaluable source of information about illegal eel fishing. Illegal fishers are gaining access to waterways through private property."
Anyone with information on illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local Fisheries Office or call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Doug Chapman on 8437 4915 or 0408 484 176