An Eden commercial fisher has been apprehended after allegedly being found in possession of hundreds of illegally taken live eels, a number of traps and a large keeper pen.
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Acting Director Fisheries Compliance Patrick Tully said the discovery was made as a result of a coordinated effort.
“Officers from the State-wide Operations and Investigations Group and the Far South Coast conducted a joint compliance operation targeting the unlawful fishing of commercial quantities of eels from non-tidal waters during March,” Mr Tully said.
“During the operation, a 48-year-old licensed commercial fisher from Eden was apprehended on the Towamba River at Kiah.
“The man is endorsed to take eels from tidal waters in selected south coast estuaries, but not from these freshwater sources.
“It will be alleged the man was found in possession of 216 live eels, weighing 201 kilograms, as well as 11 commercial eel traps and a large keeper pen.
“The commercial traps and large keeper pen were seized, and the live eels, at a market value of approximately $2,000 to $3,000, were released back to the water.
“The eel traps had no by-catch reduction device, as required when used lawfully, to prevent them from capturing other wildlife.
"A number of drowned freshwater turtles were removed from the traps.”
The man is facing charges of unlawful use of fishing gear, possessing fish illegally taken, contravening fishing endorsement conditions and fishing in waters protected from commercial fishing.
The charges each carry a maximum penalty of up to $22,000 or six months imprisonment, or both.
Mr Tully said eel trapping is not permitted in fresh and non-tidal waters anywhere in NSW to protect diversity of these fragile ecosystems and reduce the potential for destruction of non-target species.
Anyone with information about illegal fishing should contact the Fishers Watch phoneline on 1800 043 536 or make a report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/compliance