The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) seized more than 5700 illegally harvested abalone in the 2016/2017 financial year.
NSW DPI director of fisheries compliance Patrick Tully said five men have been given prison sentences and fined tens of thousands of dollars in a crackdown on the illicit trade of the seafood delicacy.
“Earlier this year, a 59-year-old Sydney restaurateur was convicted in Bankstown Local Court of trafficking in an indictable species of fish and possessing prohibited size abalone,” Mr Tully said.
The joint operation, code named ‘Symmetry’, between DPI Fisheries and NSW Police saw 3300 abalone seized.
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“The man was incarcerated and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with $32,000 in fines and penalties. The man appealed the sentence, which was converted to a two-year Intensive Corrections Order. The case of a second man involved in the matter is still before the court,” Mr Tully said.
“In November last year another Sydney man was convicted for trafficking in abalone and sentenced to 12 months’ suspended jail sentence after being found with 575 abalone of which 166 were a prohibited size.
“He was convicted and received over $8000 in fines and penalties and a good behaviour bond for three years. The man was also ordered to forfeit his vehicle.”
Two men from the South Coast recently appeared in court as a result of another operation with police.
“The pair pleaded not guilty to charges including trafficking, shucking and possessing prohibited size fish, after being found in joint possession of 266 abalone,” Mr Tully said
“The men faced Bega Local Court in September and October and were convicted of trafficking, possessing prohibited size fish and shucking abalone. Both were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment (suspended) and each received $4000 in fines.”
Another man faced Batemans Bay Local Court in September charged with possessing 132 abalone, of which 14 were a prohibited size. The man defended the charges but was convicted and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment (suspended) and fined $5000.
An order was also made prohibiting the man from diving; possessing dive gear on or adjacent to waters; possessing abalone; and boarding a vessel less than 10 metres in length for a period of three years.
“Abalone stocks are strictly managed to sustain recreational, cultural and commercial fishery needs. Illegal fishing risks sustainability of the resource and presents serious food safety issues,” Mr Tully said.
“People found fishing or dealing in abalone outside of approved arrangements will be treated as illegal fishers and can expect severe consequences.”
Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity are urged to contact their local Fisheries office, call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/compliance/report-illegal-activity