2 Mar 2018
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has seized the vehicle of a commercial fisherman found with 40 eastern rock lobsters following an operation designed to stamp out the illegal trade in the valuable crustacean.
DPI Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully said fisheries officers from the State-wide Operations and Investigations Group, Hunter and Port Stephens had two men under surveillance for some time during ‘Operation Antennae’ before apprehending the man on February 23.
“DPI Fisheries will allege the commercial fisherman took the lobsters without being appropriately endorsed to do so,” Mr Tully said.
“The refrigerated vehicle driven by a second man was intercepted by fisheries officers when it stopped at a fast food restaurant at Mayfield. Thirty four cooked lobsters and six uncooked lobsters were found and seized by fisheries officers.”
DPI is examining potential charges against the men for trafficking in a commercial quantity of an indictable species of fish (lobsters), exceeding the possession limit of lobsters and being in possession of prohibited sized (oversize) lobsters.
“The NSW lobster fishery is a small but valuable share management fishery, with a gross value of around $11.5 million,” Mr Tully said.
“There is a strict total allowable commercial catch quota system accessible only by fishers endorsed in the fishery. Individual lobsters must be tagged with numbered tags provided by DPI if legally taken for sale.
“These offences include fines of up to $88,000 and terms of imprisonment of up to 10 years on conviction. Additional monetary penalties of up to 10 times the market value of the fish can apply to trafficking of fish offences and exceeding possession limit offences.”
Mr Tully said the seized vehicle used to transport the lobsters could also be forfeited to the state if the offences are proven.
“Last week’s apprehension follows a December 2017 operation code named ‘Operation Talon’ conducted around the Illawarra region which resulted in the largest fines ever seen in NSW for fisheries offences involving lobsters,” Mr Tully said.
“The Court gave three men, a company and a seafood restaurant more than $2 million in fines, penalties and costs after fisheries officers unravelled an elaborate illegal lobster fishing racket. A commercial fisherman is serving a 2 year jail term for his part in that scheme.
“The efforts of fisheries officers for their hard work and expertise in the difficult task of unearthing illegal fishing which threatens legitimate markets, economic development and social benefits to NSW cannot be underestimated.”
Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local DPI fisheries office, call the Fisher Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online. For more information visit the DPI website.
Media contact: Jamie Jones (02) 6391 3686