Four people were found in possession of more than 250 blacklip abalone after a recent surveillance operation on the South Coast.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) says the find has led to the apprehension of four offenders found in possession of more than thirty times the normal bag limit of blacklip abalone.
The DPI Fisheries’ operation, with the assistance of NSW Police, was conducted between Bawley Point and Kioloa, south of Ulladulla, on May 8.
DPI director of fisheries compliance, Patrick Tully, said the four males allegedly took the haul of 261 abalone near Shell Point, near Ulladulla.
The haul was more than 30 times the normal bag limit of two abalone per person, per day, Mr Tully said.
Three of the alleged offenders are juveniles and all may face the Children’s court once fisheries officers finalise their investigation and consider charges.
Officers were forced to retain the 261 abalone as evidence after the alleged offenders had shucked the abalone, killing them instantly. The men’s diving gear was also seized, Mr Tully said.
The adult man was also previously apprehended on March 15. He was allegedly in possession of 365 abalone, all shucked but one, with three others not involved in the Shell Point haul.
Mr Tully said a prosecution brief was being prepared for that matter. He warned the public that abalone was “not only listed as a priority species, but an indictable species”.
“The maximum penalty for a person who traffics in an indictable species of fish is 10 years imprisonment,” Mr Tully said.
“There are also maximum penalties of $44,000 for possession of fish in circumstances of aggravation and penalties of $5,500 per person for illegally shucking abalone.”
New rules have applied for the commercial abalone fishery since December 2017. Abalone are commercially harvested from rocky reefs by divers, mostly on the South Coast of NSW.
Commercial fishing of the species is controlled through a strict quota management system. Commercial fishers must report the validated weight of the abalone they take using the FisherMobile app on a mobile device within 30 minutes and 50 metres from the point of landing.
Report suspected illegal fishing activity to the local DPI fisheries office or phone the Fisher Watch phone line on 1800 043 536.