AS the weather heats up along the NSW South Coast, Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers are sending a strong message to abalone thieves that they will be caught, Acting Director Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said today.
“Over the last month fisheries officers have seized over 380 illegally caught abalone,” Mr Tully said.
“In one case, two men were allegedly found near Gerringong in joint possession of 134 abalone, of which 117 were of a prohibited size.
“Fisheries officers allegedly witnessed the men diving south of Werri Beach, in an area that is closed to the take of abalone.
“After covert surveillance, fisheries officers approached the men to inspect their catch at which time one of the men allegedly fled the scene and the other threatened the officers.
“On a search of the area, fisheries officers found two green mesh catch bags containing 134 abalone, all of which were returned to the water alive.
“The two men will now face court on a number charges including possess prohibited size fish, possess fish taken in contravention of a fishing closure, threaten a fisheries officer, obstruct a fisheries officer in the exercise of their functions and resist a fisheries officer in the exercise of their functions.”
Mr Tully said in another case a 44 year old Lansvale man was observed by fisheries officers diving at a remote area of coastline within the Mimosa Rocks National Park, south of Bermagui.
“Fisheries officers acted on intelligence that the man was allegedly diving for abalone in NSW waters and initiated a surveillance operation targeting the man,” he said.
“After conducting a period of counter-surveillance the man left the general area. Shortly after fisheries officers located a bag containing 248 shucked abalone which was hidden in vegetation adjacent to the coastline.
“He allegedly returned to collect the catch later that day and was intercepted by fisheries officers.
“The man’s dive gear and 248 abalone were seized.
“He will now face court on charges of trafficking abalone and possession of shucked abalone.”
Mr Tully said fisheries officers will continue to conduct targeted operations along the NSW South Coast to protect the State’s precious abalone resource.
“As seasonal temperatures rise each year we also see a rise in the illegal fishing for abalone,” Mr Tully said.
“Abalone is listed as a priority species and indictable species under the NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 and a range of tough penalties apply to those persons who flout these rules.
“Illegal fishing for commercial quantities threatens the recovery of this important species.
“The public can help fisheries officers by reporting suspected abalone theft on the South Coast by calling the Fishers Watch hotline on 1800 043 536 and talking to an operator. If the line is busy or not manned, follow the prompts to report ‘illegal abalone’ fishing.”
People can also report on-line by going to www.fisheries.nsw.gov.au