Reports of illegal fishing from the community are leading to more fines being issued and more offenders facing court, with Eden, Merimbula, and Batemans Bay singled out as ‘hot spots’.
There were 20 locations where NSW DPI fisheries officers found most offences occurring during the year-long ‘Operation Small Fry’.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully says, “Greater Sydney was the worst performer with five metropolitan postcodes in the top 10, including Pyrmont (1), Kymeah (6), Port Botany (7), Kurnell (8) and La Perouse (9).”
“Regional areas in the top 10 offending locations were Port Kembla (2), Woolgoolga (3), Shellharbour (4), Eden (5) and Merimbula (10).”
Making up the top 20 illegal fishing hot spots in order were – Swansea Heads, Banksmeadow, Mulwala, Picnic Point, The Entrance, Windang, Cronulla, Jervis Bay, Chipping Norton, and Batemans Bay.
Since March last year, NSW DPI Fisheries officers have seized 5,379 illegally harvested fish and shellfish during the state-wide ‘Operation Small Fry’ campaign.
1,350 offences were detected during the operation with a whopping $102,500 worth of on-the-spot fines issued to those caught possessing or selling prohibited size fish. Twenty six others will, or already have faced the courts for serious offences involving prohibited size fish.
Men were the most prolific offenders with 30-34 year-olds the most over-represented age group.
Mr Tully says whiting, snapper, bream, tarwhine, and kingfish were the finfish species most commonly involved.
“In one instance, fisheries officers from North Sydney found and seized 41 kg of prohibited size Yellowtail Kingfish concealed in a man’s boat on Christmas Eve, 2018,” he says.
“Turban snails, abalone, crabs and lobsters were the most common invertebrates seized by fisheries officers.
“DPI appreciates the wider community’s help bringing these offenders to account with 652 reports about prohibited size fish coming through the Fishers Watch service.
“Reports to Fishers Watch have grown year on year, doubling since 2013, with people now able to report to DPI through a smartphone and the free FishSmart NSW app.
“We’ve learnt a lot through Operation Small Fry and continuing to reduce the prevalence of prohibited size fish offences in NSW will remain an enduring priority for us.
“We’ll be refocusing our efforts on these problem areas later in the year through another state-wide operation tentatively named Operation Bigger Fish.”
Anyone spotting illegal fishing activity can call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536, make a report via the NSWDPI website, or via the free FishSmart NSW app available from the App Store or Google Play.