Thousands of shellfish have been seized by NSW DPI Fisheries Officers during an operation targeting illegal shellfish collection around Sydney and the Illawarra.
NSW Department of Primary Industries Director Fisheries Compliance Patrick Tully, said Operation Turbo Reef IV is an annual operation designed to reduce illegal harvesting of shellfish such as marine snails and sea urchins.
“The warmer months result in a significant increase in fishing pressure along the coast, particularly during weekends and public holidays,” Mr Tully said.
“Intertidal invertebrates such as turban snails and abalone are popular with recreational fishers to grab an easy feed or for bait, but people need to realise that they are subject to strict fishing rules to ensure the catch is sustainable, otherwise they’re treated as illegal fishers and face the full force of the law.
“These shellfish also provide food and habitat for a variety of other animals including fish, crustaceans, and birds. Empty shells are also important in providing habitat and shelter for aquatic animals during their life cycle, so overharvesting is a real problem.”
As a result of the operation DPI Fisheries will allege that more than 30 people committed fisheries offences including; exceeding the possession limit of intertidal invertebrates, illegally taking invertebrates from Sydney’s intertidal protected areas (IPAs), illegally shucking intertidal invertebrates, and not paying the Recreational Fishing Fee.
A number of offences were detected and included:
- Four people found at night in possession of 1855 cockles in the Sydney Harbour Intertidal Protected Area (IPA) Exile Bay.
- Two people caught for the fourth time allegedly attempting to take cockles in Sydney Harbour IPA at Hen and Chicken Bay.
- A man found with 17 speared Moray Eels in waters closed to spearfishing at North Harbour.
- A Marrickville restaurant owner found allegedly offering for sale 80kg of live cockles without the required documentation.
- Another 12 people were found illegally collecting over 500 invertebrates in separate incidents in the Sydney Harbour IPAs during the operation.
- Four people were found in possession of 1167 cockles and another person was found in possession of 244 cockles taken from Lake Illawarra.
- Two people were found in possession of 9 prohibited size Blue Swimmer Crabs and one prohibited size Mud crab taken from Lake Illawarra. The pair were also using crab traps which were also not marked as required.
- And Fisheries officers in western NSW undertook post-harvest production patrols and a restaurant owner in Quirindi had 455 pieces of shellfish meat seized, including 455 pieces of suspected illegally harvested shellfish meat.
Some of the alleged offenders are facing multiple charges and have been issued with fines of up to $500 per person, per offence, while several matters are still under investigation.
“IPAs protect aquatic biodiversity and provide reservoirs of breeding stock to repopulate nearby exploited areas. Many of the locations where people were found collecting illegally are closed to harvesting for health reasons,” Mr Tully said.
“Our officers continue to work with representatives from many different communities on initiatives to promote the information on fisheries rules. Advisory material on intertidal collecting around the greater Sydney area is available in six languages.”