Massive illegal prawn hauls on Coila Lake

DPI Fisheries officers are investigating South Coast seafood retailers in relation to prawn purchases following a number of Coila Lake prawn hauls being seized. 

Targeted inspections seized hauls of cooked prawns as part of Operation Portunus, a statewide operation targeting illegal crabbing and prawning activity, and raising awareness of the rules and regulations. 

As part of the operation seven people were allegedly found in possession of 280 litres of prawns, well above the 10 litre per person limit, which were seized along with a hand-hauled prawn net and prawn cooker at Coila Lake.

Another seven people were found, during separate inspections, to have exceeded the bag limit of prawns at Coila Lake, with officers seizing over 57 litres of prawns over the course of a number of patrols. A number of these people have been issued fines.

The investigation coincides with reports from a number of local fisherman that in recent weeks since the big hauls being reported a few weeks back that there are now very low numbers of prawns in Coila Lake. 

There were reports of local commercial fishers getting huge 100kg hauls even on the full moon. These hauls came just in time for the peak Christmas demand.

Now that commercial fishers have lost access to Tilba Lake due to a new development at Mystery Bay, lakes such as Coila have become an even more important resource.

Some local fishers have questioned why haul nets still allowed for recreational anglers when they dredge up the bottom and allow amateurs to catch commercial amounts. 

Many are of the view that dabbing with hand nets is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

Meanwhile, inspections of seafood hauls at Lake Wollumboola near Culburra have taken place as part of the operation. 

Two people have allegedly been found in possession of 60 red rock crabs, 32 of which were carrying eggs.

Red rock crabs have a bag limit of 10 per person and cannot be taken if they are carrying eggs externally.

In addition, a number of illegal hand-hauled prawn nets have been seized from people on Lake Wollumboola.

Further information on fishing rules, regulations, bag and size limits is available at