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Fisheries Nets Black Market Traders

AUSTRALIA - A raid by Department of Fisheries officers on homes in Cervantes and Coogee led to 10 individuals being charged with 53 fisheries offences.

The alleged offences included excess possession of rock lobsters, use of excess lobster pots, interference with other fishers’ rock lobster pots, dealing in recreationally-caught lobster and selling them for commercial gain.

The raid, the culmination of a Department of Fisheries' operation code-named “Cosmos”, was carried out following a month of surveillance activities and involved the seizure of items relating to the black market trade of lobster, including three vehicles, one vessel, six lobster pots, 64 whole rock lobsters, 63 rock lobster tails, cooking equipment and a quantity of cash.

The alleged offenders will face charges in Joondalup Magistrates Court in the New Year.

Department of Fisheries Compliance and Regional Support Manager Phil Shaw said the raid sent out a strong message to would-be black market traders of fish.

“Commercial fishing is carefully managed by the Department of Fisheries to ensure our most precious Western Australian fish species are sustainably harvested,” he said. “Taking fish and selling them for commercial gain outside of the licensed fishery, not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of legitimately licensed fishers, but also threatens the sustainability of the fishery.

“The operation we have carried out shows how determined we are to stop this kind of illegal activity. Individuals tempted to sell their catch on the black-market need to consider whether it is worth the risk of jeopardizing the sustainability of the fishery and risking receiving large court fines and having their boats, vehicles and gear seized.”

This latest swoop by the Department of Fisheries is part of a sustained crack-down on illegal commercial trading of locally caught seafood by unlicensed fishers through operation Cosmos – targeting the illegal rock lobster trade and Operation Dorado - targeting illegal finfish trading.

The two operations, have so far resulted in eight convictions with a further 17 cases pending in the courts and the handing down of more than $65,000 in fines and court costs from a wide range of illegal fish possession and trading charges.

Charlotte Johnson

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