Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says the NSW Government has been cracking down on abalone crime this year to ensure the valuable commercial and recreational fishery is sustainable well into the future.
“Over the past 12 months the NSW Government has stepped up efforts on illegal abalone fishing and black marketing of the lucrative product,” Mr Constance said.
“More than 5900 illegally taken abalone have been seized by DPI fisheries officers over the last year and more than a dozen individuals have been convicted for serious abalone-related fisheries offences.
“Fines up to $32,000 have been issued by the courts and five individuals have received suspended prison sentences.
“Not only are illegal abalone divers under the microscope, the NSW Government is penetrating the point of sale and dismantling the black market too.”
Mr Constance’s comments came in response to two restaurant owners from Sydney who both received large fines and prison sentences since November 2016.
One man from Riverwood narrowly escaped jail by being issued a suspended 12 month sentence but had his vehicle forfeited to the State for illegally dealing in abalone and is still on an 18-month good behaviour bond.
The other man from Burwood went directly to prison after being found guilty of trafficking in 3309 abalone but is now serving the rest of his 27-month sentence as an intensive corrections order.
DPI fisheries officers are constantly on the case.
On Monday, 11 December 2017 two men were caught by DPI fisheries officers in possession of 201 allegedly illegally taken abalone weighing 57.7 kilograms and worth in excess of $6,000 this time of year.
The men were found in possession of the abalone taken from Bogola Headland, a Sanctuary Zone south of Narooma in Batemans Marine Park.
While the men had allegedly illegally shucked (shelled) five of the abalone, the rest were returned to water alive after being measured and weighed for evidence.
On Wednesday, 12 December 2017 three people were approached by fisheries officers at the same spot and found two bags containing 37 abalone weighing around 11 kilograms and worth in excess of $1,000.
Twelve of the abalone were of prohibited size but the people denied any knowledge of the abalone when questioned. Investigations continue into this matter.
Mr Constance added illegally harvested abalone poses severe safety risks.
“It’s not properly refrigerated or kept to hygienic standards required for human consumption and can potentially make people very sick,” Mr Constance said.
“Fish to the rules and buy seafood legally or face the consequences.
“Fisheries officers will be looking out for more illegal fishing and black market trade in abalone over the festive season.”
Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local Fisheries office, call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online.
For more information on fishing rules and regulations visit the DPI website.