A Sydney abalone thief, caught in possession of 248 shucked abalone at Aragunnu, has been sentenced to 18 months jail and ordered to pay $13,750 in fines and costs.
The 46-year-old man from Lansvale in Sydney’s west was sentenced on August 18 after being arrested by Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries Officers following an extensive surveillance operation code named Operation Orpheus.
The DPI described the man’s behaviour as “habitual” after he was arrested on charges including trafficking in fish, possession of prohibited size fish in circumstances of aggravation and possession of shucked abalone.
Fisheries officers conducted the targeted operation on the man within Mimosa Rocks National Park, between Tanja and Bermagui, in September 2014 before seizing all of the man’s abalone and diving gear.
The DPI said the repeat offender is well known to the officers, and has prior abalone offences in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
A prohibition order was also imposed on the man for five years, banning him from diving, possessing diving gear, possessing abalone or rock lobster, or being on board a boat less than 10 metres long in NSW.
DPI Senior Fisheries Investigator Matthew Cartwright said the sentence sends out a clear message to abalone offenders, that stealing abalone, a community resource, would not be tolerated.
Abalone is listed as an indictable species under the Fisheries Management Act 1994.
“Fisheries Officers undertake routine coastal patrols and strategic targeted operations for persons involved in abalone theft,” Mr Cartwright said.
“Offenders can face heavy penalties of up to 10 years jail and additional penalties of up to 10 times the value of the fish, especially repeat offenders engaged in trafficking of abalone.”
Mr Cartwright said licensed abalone divers in NSW work under a strict quota managed fishery.
“Recreational fishers are limited to two abalone per day and must have paid a NSW recreational fishing fee and the minimum size for abalone is 11.7 centimetres in NSW,” he said.
Anyone with information on illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local Fisheries Office or call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536.
The man was given a minimum non-parole period of 13 months in Sydney’s Downing Centre.