Cray opening marred by offences

Some of the illegal traps seized.

ILLEGAL fishers are being tracked on the shoreline, on the water and from the air as part of a crackdown on fishers who continuously flout the rules for our native species.

NSW Department of Primary Industries Acting Director Fisheries Compliance, Anthony Chen, said a recent compliance operation in south western NSW over the opening two weekends of the Murray crayfish season saw 791 recreational fishers checked by Fisheries Officers along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Edward Rivers.

“Despite the vast majority of fishers doing the right thing, we still had 81 fishers found to be doing the wrong thing, with a total of 126 offences detected,” Mr Chen said.

“18 fishers were reported for taking Murray crayfish from closed areas while 28 fishers were reported for possession of prohibited size Murray crayfish. It is alleged that some of these fishers were complacent in the method in which they were measuring their catch. All are facing $500 on the spot fines.

“A further seven fishers were reported for taking Murray crayfish carrying eggs, while 52 Murray crayfish were seized, along with a number of unlawful nets and traps.

“NSW DPI not only had fisheries officers on the ground and out on the water, they were also supported by a fixed wing aircraft providing intelligence regarding suspected illegal fishing activities, allowing us to zero in on those breaking the law and respond with appropriate resources.”

Taking Murray crayfish using any form of trap is unlawful, and Murray crayfish may only be taken by the use of up to 5 hoop nets per person.

Murray crayfish have a minimum size limit of 10cm and a maximum size limit of 12cm. They are measured from the rear of the eye socket to the centre of the rear of the carapace.

Fishers need to know how to measure crayfish accurately to ensure compliance with the size limits as fisheries officers measure fish to the nearest millimetre and only a very small margin can be the difference between a legal size crayfish and a potential fine.

“Along the Murray River, Murray crayfish may only be taken during the open season from the Hume weir downstream to the road bridge at Tocumwal. The taking of Murray crayfish from all other waters of the Murray River is prohibited at all times,” Mr Chen said.

“If you are fishing illegally, you face the prospect of large fines, gear seizure and even a prison term. It’s just not worth it.”

Further information regarding fishing for Murray crayfish in NSW, including the correct method for measuring Murray crayfish:

Any suspected illegal fishing activity can be reported through the FishSmart app or to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536

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