40 cooked and uncooked lobsters were seized

The poachers' fridge truck could be forfeited

New South Wales takes a hard line on illegal fishing, and arrests were made and a vehicle seized in an operation designed to target illegal lobster fishing and sales of poached lobster. The vehicle used to transport the lobsters could be forfeited. This follows operations last year that resulted in jail terms and fines running into millions.

In this recent case, during Operation Antennae officers from DPI Fisheries had two men under surveillance for some time before intercepting the vehicle at a restaurant where 34 cooked and six uncooked lobsters were seized.

‘DPI Fisheries will allege the commercial fisherman took the lobsters without being appropriately endorsed to do so,’ commented DPI Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, adding that DPI is examining potential charges against the men for trafficking in a commercial quantity of an indictable species, exceeding the possession limit of lobsters and being in possession of prohibited sized (oversize) lobsters.

‘The NSW lobster fishery is a small but valuable share management fishery, with a gross value of around A$11.5 million,’ Mr Tully said.

‘There is a strict total allowable commercial catch quota system accessible only by fishers endorsed in the fishery. Individual lobsters must be tagged with numbered tags provided by DPI if legally taken for sale. These offences include fines of up to $88,000 and terms of imprisonment of up to 10 years on conviction. Additional monetary penalties of up to 10 times the market value of the fish can apply to trafficking of fish offences and exceeding possession limit offences.’

The operation follows Operation Talon in December last year, which Patrick Tully said resulted in the heaviest fines imposed in New South Wales involving lobster catches.

‘The Court gave three men, a company and a seafood restaurant more than A$2 million in fines, penalties and costs after fisheries officers unravelled an elaborate illegal lobster fishing racket. A commercial fisherman is serving a 2 year jail term for his part in that scheme,’ he said.

‘The efforts of fisheries officers for their hard work and expertise in the difficult task of unearthing illegal fishing which threatens legitimate markets, economic development and social benefits to NSW cannot be underestimated.’

Source: NSW DPI