'Cockle' crackdown continues across Lake Illawarra

7 Jan 2021

DPI Fisheries Officers have seized 1649 cockles in the Lake Illawarra region earlier this week as part of Operation Stingray 2, an ongoing state-wide operation targeting the collection of intertidal invertebrates, including at Lake Illawarra.

DPI Fisheries Compliance Officer Emma Corfield said Officers are actively patrolling Lake Illawarra, conducting patrols and covert surveillance activities to target anyone doing the wrong thing.

“In 2019/2020, there were more than 1,900 inspections conducted on fishers at Lake Illawarra and this year we are on track to undertake even more,” Ms Corfield said.

“Even with the reduced bag limit of 20, the compliance rate this year is over 80%, which shows that the majority of people are still doing the right thing.

“However, there are a small number of people doing the wrong thing, and we will continue to take these people to task for that.

“On Monday 4 January 2021, a group of people were observed by local Fisheries Officers allegedly collecting cockles at Berkeley, Lake Illawarra. After a period of surveillance, the group left the area quickly in two vehicles.

“Based on information collected during surveillance, Fisheries Officers attended a residence in Belmore NSW and intercepted two people in a vehicle as it returned to the residence. In the vehicle, Fisheries Officers found 527 Cockles. The two men, both from Belmore, are expected to appear in court charged with possessing more than the possession limit for cockles and failing to pay the NSW Recreational Fishing Fee.”

“On Tuesday 5 January 2021, Fisheries Officers responded to a Fishers Watch Phoneline report of suspicious cockle collecting at Koonawarra Bay, near Kanahooka on Lake Illawarra,” Ms Corfield said.

“Six people were found collecting and when intercepted by Fisheries Officers, were allegedly in possession of 1,122 Cockles. The three men and three women from Mount Pleasant, Broadmeadow and Sutherland are expected to appear in court charged with possessing more than the bag limit of cockles and failing to pay the recreational fishing fee.

“This is a perfect example of how the public can help us enforce compliance across the Illawarra. We would encourage anyone who suspects illegal fishing to immediately report it to 1800 043 536 so that we can investigate and stop people from doing the wrong thing.”

To date, at Lake Illawarra Operation Stringray 2 has resulted in:

  • The seizure of at least 6222 cockles most of which have been returned to the waters of Lake Illawarra;
  • The inspection of at least 960 shellfish collectors and line fishers around Lake Illawarra, resulting in a compliance rate of 81% showing that while most people are adhering to the laws some are not and are being apprehended by fisheries officers; and
  • The detection of at least 151 cockle related offenses around Lake Illawarra resulting in the issue of 102 written warnings for minor offenses, 37 fines totaling $16,100 in fines for moderate offences and the commencement of 12 prosecution actions for serious offenses.

New signage about collecting rules, including change to cockle bag limit, have been produced in multiple languages and installed in popular collecting areas around the lake.

On 14 October last year, the daily limit of cockles was reduced from 50 to 20 per person per day, after a significant increase in collection in recent years raised concerns about sustainability.

Information on legal fishing and marine invertebrate collecting is available through the free FishSmartNSW App.

Report suspected illegal fishing activity by calling 1800 043 536 or report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/compliance/report-illegal-activity.

Media contact: Rosy Lone (02) 6391 3686