NSW to enforce tougher illegal fishing legislation

Posted by Editorial on 21st July 2008

A Narooma man has been fined $900 and sentenced to four months in prison, one of the longest gaol terms handed down for abalone theft to date, as the NSW Government continues to crackdown on illegal fishing.
The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, said the man had a significant history of abalone offences and was caught by Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers in two targeted surveillance operations.

The man was charged with four offences under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, including possessing more than the legal limit, possessing undersized fish and obstructing Fisheries Officers during the hearing at Narooma local court last week. “This man was caught on two occasions possessing a total of more than 400 illegally caught and undersized abalone,” Mr Macdonald advised. “On one occasion, 295 shucked abalone were concealed in bush near Glasshouse Rocks and, thanks to the careful surveillance of fisheries officers, they were able to catch the man returning to the site to collect the illegal catch.”

The value of the stolen abalone was more than $3000 on the black market and the DPI was concerned about the future impact on the industry. “Authorities will not tolerate illegal fishing activity and this four month gaol sentence clearly demonstrates this,” Mr Macdonald warned.

The sentence is part of an ongoing operation by the NSW Government which is targeting illegal fishing and organised syndicates operating along the State’s South Coast.

“Our targeted surveillance strategies are working – in the last 12 months alone, our fisheries officers on the South Coast have seized more than 9,900 illegally caught abalone destined for the black market, issued 13 penalty infringement notices and launched court prosecutions for more than 180 abalone offences,” Mr Macdonald said.

New laws, announced earlier this month and due to be introduced to Parliament at the first opportunity, will substantially increase penalties for illegal fishing activity. “Under the new laws, poachers could face a maximum penalty of up to $500,000 and 10 years in jail,” he reported. “Trafficking priority species will soon be made an indictable offence and repeat offenders can have their penalty doubled for committing the same offence twice.”