A DIVING syndicate has been apprehended on the NSW South Coast, after allegedly being found in possession of hundreds of abalone and a number of prohibited size rock lobsters, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) senior investigator Tony Chen said Monday.
“Officers from the State-wide Operations and Investigations Group conducted a targeted patrol of the Batemans Bay coastline earlier this month,” Mr Chen said.
“During the patrol a diving group of four people, including two 16 and 17-year-old boys and a 20-year-old man, all from Moruya, and a 19-year-old man from Mogo, were apprehended near Batemans Bay.
“It will be alleged they were found in joint possession of 328 abalone and five eastern rock lobsters.
“Most of the abalone was shucked near the water and from the shells retrieved, it appears the majority of abalone were of a prohibited size. Three of the lobsters were also found to be of a prohibited size.
“Four sets of dive gear were seized and the four people will be prosecuted due to the serious nature of the offences and a quantity of illegally harvested abalone.”
The accused are facing charges of possess more than the maximum quantity of fish and possess prohibited size fish in circumstances of aggravation, both of which carry penalties of $88,000 in fines and/or 18 months imprisonment.
They are also expected to face charges of shuck abalone adjacent to waters which carries a $5500 fine.
The possession limit for abalone in NSW is two per person. The minimum prescribed legal length is 11.7cm.
“Possession and size limits are in place to help protect the sustainability of the fisheries resource for future generations,” Mr Chen said.
“Strict Fisheries legislation applies to the take, possession and sale of abalone in NSW.
“Fisheries Officers conduct targeted operations into illegal abalone activity throughout the state all year round.
“Those found to be fishing illegally can expect to face the full force of the law.”
If you have any information concerning the illegal take, possession or sale of abalone in NSW contact the Fishers Watch phone on 1800 043 536, visit your nearest fisheries office or report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/compliance/report-illegal-activity
Rewards are available to persons providing information upon successful conviction of offenders.