Surveillance operation catches illegal fishers on North Coast

FOLLOWING the recent detection of serious fisheries offences on the NSW North Coast, recreational and commercial fishers are being reminded of their obligation to abide by the state’s fishing regulations.

Department of Primary Industries Acting Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said three men potentially face fines of more than $22,000 each after they were apprehended north of Woolgoolga at the Arrawarra Beach boat ramp.

“These men were in possession of three eastern rock lobsters that were over the maximum legal size when their vehicle and boat were stopped and searched by Fisheries and Water Police officers,” Mr Tully said.

“The lobsters were found hidden within the front of the vessel and were released alive. Eastern rock lobsters have a maximum size limit of 18 centimetres carapace length for both recreational and commercial fishers to protect the valuable spawning stock of mature adults.

“It is alleged the men had earlier been observed to interfere with lawfully set commercial lobster traps set near Split Solitary Island. Any lawfully set fishing gear including traps must not be interfered with and only the owner can lift the gear and remove anything from the trap.

“Tampering with commercially set fishing gear and possessing prohibited sized lobsters are both serious offences and fisheries officers will not hesitate in taking swift and substantial action against offenders.”

In another case, a commercial fisher was found on the Manning River allegedly using a meshing net of prohibited length and failing to mark the net according to regulation.

“It is alleged the man was observed retrieving the illegally set net that officers had under surveillance overnight,” Mr Tully said. Fisheries officers are preparing a brief of evidence with the view to summonse the man to appear in court following similar offences in other waterways for which the man has been recently convicted.

“The use of meshing nets by commercial fishers is subject to a range of strict guidelines that determine areas and methods of use and size limitations.”

Individuals face a maximum fine of $22,000 for the unlawful use of nets and $22,000 for the possession of illegally taken fish, while both offences can also result in six months imprisonment. This penalty is doubled for second or subsequent offences.

Tully said fisheries officers will continue conducting patrols and surveillance on known hot spots.

“Expect to see fisheries officers at sea, on the headlands and boat ramps,” he said.

“But be warned, just because you don’t see a fisheries officer it certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t seen you.

“They are a skilled and committed team, and resourced with state of the art equipment to help detect illegal activity. Fisheries officers are always interested in any information concerning illegal fishing activity.”

Anyone witnessing illegal fishing is urged to contact their local fisheries office, call the Fishers Watch hotline on 1800 043 536, or complete the on-line report form at

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