Fisheries officers in Western Australia have been busy in the days leading up to Christmas this year, focusing on illegal catches of abalone and rock lobster.
Two men are being investigated after having been caught with 405 more abalone than they were legally allowed to take off the coast north of Margaret River a week before Christmas.
According to Southern Region acting compliance manager Steve Embling, the men were returning to their vehicle after fishing for abalone, when they were approached by the fisheries officers who then searched their vehicle and found a total of 445 roe’s abalone concealed in the rear of the vehicle.
‘The men told the Fisheries officers they had dived and caught the abalone and also claimed the abalone were for personal consumption. Officers seized a combined total of 405 of the abalone in excess of the allowable daily bag limit that applies,’ he said.
‘Licensed recreational abalone fishers are limited to a maximum of 20 Roe’s abalone per day per fisher, in the Southern Zone fishery. Search warrants were executed on the homes of the two men at Busselton and Dunsborough but no further abalone was located. Investigations are continuing and charges are expected.’
He warned that penalties can be severe for illegal fishing activity. Proven recreational fishing offences can attract fines of up to $5000 per person and any excess abalone involved would also attract an additional and mandatory penalty of $30 per abalone for each person found in possession of them.
Abalone is highly sought-after, with strict rules to ensure that the stocks are not over-exploited. A number of other people have been apprehended in WA’s South West in the past few weeks with excess bag limit and undersize abalone.
Western Australia’s fishery officers have been busy with the rock lobster fishery and have so far seven vessels have been impounded as part of Operation Bagana, a drive to crack down on interference in other boats’ rock lobster pots and other offences.
A man from Safety Bay had his 5.60 metre GRP boat seized and faces investigation for alleged gear interference with commercial rock lobster pots and other rock lobster related offences. Enquiries continue into other suspects on the same matter.
Following the apprehension, fisheries officers executed search warrants at two related addresses and a further quantity of rock lobster was seized.
A 6.40 metre GRP cabin cruiser was also seized by fishery officers for similar offences near Mindarie and this investigation is also continuing, and the efforts to enforce the regulations are appreciated.
‘I’m hearing a lot of positive feedback from the community regarding our operations focussed on gear interference,,’ said South Metropolitan compliance manager John Breeden.
‘The community can feel proud that by reporting all the information they have on fish thieves, our officers have been able to detect and apprehend them,’ he added, commenting that fisheries officers will continue to conduct overt and covert operations across Western Australia targeting people who don’t follow the rules.
‘As a result, we hope the fishing experience has been enjoyable for the large majority of law abiding fishers. It’s a unique fishery on the doorstep of a major city, where we can catch fantastic seafood to share at Christmas with friends and family, making those early morning trips worth it.’
‘We are watching,’ he said. ‘Don’t be the owner of the eighth boat seized. It’s just not worth it. Western Australia’s aquatic resources are highly valued in our community and everyone should respect the rights of others when fishing. Interference with another person’s fishing gear or catch, selling recreational fish or other similar offences can result in penalties of up to $400,000, imprisonment for four years and loss of boats, vehicles and equipment.’