Four men have been apprehended for allegedly harvesting $9000 worth of abalone near Tathra.
A recent surveillance operation by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Officers led to the apprehension of the four males for illegally harvesting 1093 abalone at Baronda Head, in Mimosa Rocks National Park.
DPI director of fisheries compliance Patrick Tully said the alleged offenders, who were apprehended on April 2, were known to Fisheries officers and are also suspected of organised abalone trafficking.
"This was a significant outcome for our team, with our Statewide Operations & Investigations Group and Far South Coast officers seizing the illegally harvested abalone, 792 of which were of a prohibited size and all of which were shucked," Mr Tully said.
"The 1093 shucked abalone weighed in excess of 85kg, meaning they would have a retail value of over $9000."
Mr Tully said charges had not been laid yet, but potential offences include: trafficking in fish; possessing more than the possession limit of abalone (aggravated); possessing prohibited size abalone (aggravated); and possessing shucked abalone adjacent to water.
Mr Tully said if the alleged offenders are found guilty, they could face significant penalties.
"People dealing illegally in abalone, and restaurants and seafood retailers found receiving or selling black market abalone can be prosecuted and fined up to $22,000 for individuals and $220,000 for companies," he said.
"An additional penalty of up to 10 times the value of the illegal product applies and individuals also face up to 10 years in jail."
NSW Police Marine Area Command regional controller, Acting Inspector Christine McDonald said NSW DPI Fisheries and the Marine Area Command work together to detect and disrupt the illegal seizure of abalone in NSW.
"This seizure is significant, and is a direct result of implementing covert investigative strategies in a partner-agency environment to effectively arrest persons responsible," Ms McDonald said.
"It's a serious crime, and individuals need to be held accountable."
Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to call Fishers Watch on 1800 043 536, Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or report illegal fishing activities online.
For more information visit the DPI website: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/compliance.