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Jail Sentence for Abalone Theft

AUSTRALIA - A Bega man has been sentenced to two months jail and given a A$500 fine after facing court this week on abalone theft charges.

New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said the man was one of three men caught during a targeted patrol operation of diving locations on the Far South Coast in February this year.

"This sentence sends a clear message to thieves who threaten the abalone industry - if you flout the law, you will get caught and can end up in gaol," Mr Macdonald said.

"This proves our targeted surveillance strategies are working - this is the 14th abalone bust this year, resulting in 115 charges.

"The Iemma Government is committed to enforcing tough penalties for fishery crimes, to protect our valuable natural resources so that they remain at sustainable levels. "In the last 12 months alone, more than 9,200 abalone have been seized by fisheries officers.

"Fortunately in this instance, more than 250 live abalone were safely returned to the water, thanks to the quick work of fisheries officers from the Department of Primary Industries.

"The amount of abalone would have been worth more than $3,500 on the legitimate market, but play a much more valuable role in securing the future of the abalone industry.

"We also confiscated a quantity of diving gear, ensuring it cannot be used in any future abalone crime.

"This sentence sends a message that fisheries crime will not be tolerated.. We are targeting habitual offenders across a range of fisheries and making sure those who ignore the law are caught and penalised."

Mr Macdonald said the three men were charged with five offences under the Fisheries Management Act, including possessing more than the legal limit, possessing undersized fish and obstructing Fisheries Officers.

Two other offenders, will face court next month. The maximum penalty for the offences is a $22,000 fine and or three months in jail.

Ellen Hardy

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