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Fisheries Officers Swoop on Alleged Lobster Traffickers

Crustaceans Sustainability Economics +5 more

AUSTRALIA - Three men apprehended on the North Coast at Wooli on 22 December in possession of 120 kilograms of eastern rock lobster face serious charges for alleged illegal trafficking and other offences.

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Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Manager Special Operations Fisheries Compliance, Tony Andrews, said the apprehension resulted from a targeted operation by the Statewide Operations and Investigations Group and Coffs Harbour district fisheries officers.

Early last Saturday morning the crew of a commercial fishing boat was allegedly seen to be checking lobster traps in ocean waters off Wooli, Mr Andrews said.

After coming into Wooli River, the crew was alleged to transfer five large hessian sacks to a vehicle.

Shortly afterwards, at around 7.00am, the vehicle was stopped and occupants of the vehicle apprehended when the hessian sacks were found to allegedly contain a large quantity of eastern rock lobster.

A commercial fisher and a deckhand on the boat were also apprehended at the time.

Of the 77 lobster found in the sacks, 18 were over the maximum size limit of 18 centimetres and some were carrying ova.

All the lobsters were released alive back into the water.

Mr Andrews said it is alleged that the commercial fisher did not have any quota to cover his catch and he failed to tag the eastern rock lobster and complete the required documentation.

The alleged offenders will face a number of charges, including trafficking in an indictable species of fish, possess prohibited size fish in circumstances of aggravation and possession of illegally taken fish, he said.

Significant penalties apply for each offence, with up to 10 years imprisonment for trafficking and fines of up to $88,000 and imprisonment for other offences.

This apprehension and the potential penalties should send a clear message to others.

Fisheries officers will continually be out conducting compliance operations across NSW to protect our fisheries resources by targeting those involved in illegal lobster theft and bringing them before the courts.