NSW Police and the NSW Department of Primary Industries have seized 867 abalone from a vehicle in Bournda National Park south of Tathra.
NSW Department of Primary Industries director of fisheries compliance Patrick Tully said no charges have yet been laid against the four men allegedly in possession of the animals.
Bega Police and the DPI intercepted the suspected poachers in November following an extensive surveillance operation along a remote stretch of the national park coastline.
Four sets of diving gear was also confiscated from the vehicle.
“Charges have 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.
“Abalone is not only listed as a priority species but an indictable species.
“The maximum penalty for a person who traffics in an indictable species of fish is 10 years imprisonment and monetary penalties up to 10 times the commercial value of the abalone.
“There are also maximum penalties of $44,000 for possession of fish in circumstances of aggravation and penalties of $5,500 per person for illegally shucking abalone.
“In the lead up to summer, fishers should not be complacent about fish bag and size limits as DPI Fisheries Officers are always on the lookout for unlawful activity,” he said.
Abalone Association of NSW’s Greg Finn said “Illegal abalone fishing and sales can threaten legitimate industries and have a damaging effect on the sustainability of the abalone stocks."
Greg Vakaci, acting director of NSW Biosecurity and Food Safety said illegally harvested abalone can pose a “serious health risk to consumers”.
"There are strict food safety controls in place for harvesting and selling seafood for consumption. These controls ensure that consumers get the best quality and safest possible seafood on their plates," he said.
"Some seafood such as shellfish require extra care to ensure that is safe to eat.
“Poor food safety practices during harvesting, transport, processing and sale can result in an increase in microbiological contamination.
"We recommend people only buy shellfish from reputable retailers as their product has been monitored for safety,” he said.