Home' Afloat : AFLOAT September 2017 Contents 48 AFLOAT.com.au September 2017
with David Lockwood
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Roseville Chase 2069
Tel: 02 9417 8455
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From organised crime gangs illegally
diving for abalone to ‘shamateurs’
selling fish on the side, from black-
market oyster thieves to covert crabbing in the
creeks, illegal seafood sales are big business
these days. With prices through the roof for
most wild-caught ocean delicacies, crims are
making a motza from their black-market catch
and cache, while families of often foreign
extraction raze the reefs and mud flats for
molluscs to feed their gangs and tribe.
Illegal fishing and shellfish collecting has
now reached such epidemic proportions it’s
overwhelmed our grossly under-resourced
authorities. Are you sitting down? Get this.
There are just four Fisheries officers for
the whole of Sydney covering all fishing
disciplines from recs to commercials and
those stripping our seashore. The officers
work night and day and weekends in an at-
times threatening environment. They also
deal with a lot of spurious and vague claims.
Marine Parks with lockouts isn’t the
quasi management tool we’re after. What is
needed is more action on the policing front
and a bigger investment in frontline officers.
General revenue funds the majority of them,
so how about dipping into the purse to expand
our compliance frontline in accord with
population growth and stamp duty revenue?
Time and again I’m hearing the laments
from eyewitnesses who have evidence of
illegal fishing and criminal activity — their
reports are falling on deaf ears. They hit the
hotlines with the best of intentions, report
breaches and even submit photos. Then.
As one week rolls into the next, more and
more illegal harvesting goes on unchecked.
The ‘razor gangs’ razing the reefs are the worst
offenders, collecting buckets of slow-growing
sea snails, shellfish and other molluscs to
boil-up in their backyards. But when you
look at the size of the hauls, there’s surely a
commercial venture going unchecked.
Sadly, I was reminded of this very thing
again leading up to this issue of Afloat. A
resident on the Northern Beaches sent
photos and accounts of families raiding
Newport Reef, collecting shellfish and
processing them on site, before paddling
back in their kayaks and driving home. Or
to the restaurant.
“On one occasion I convinced a guy
the fines were not worth it. This one fellow
threw back about 30 [turban shells] as he
was walking away along the beach towards
his car,” Bill recounts. “On another occasion
there was a group of about eight on the rock
platform with a ‘processing line’ of harvesting,
shucking and packing.
“ With a telephoto lens on the camera I
took a large amount of images of the ‘boss’
who was sporting a very distinctive tattoo
on his front, and all the others. I also waited
near where I thought their car would be and
photographed their vehicles and number
“ Put it all together and sent it off to
fisheries, offered to assist in a prosecution
if needed ... never heard a peep in reply,”
A couple of Sundays back, Bill was up
before dawn and saw four headlamps glowing
on the reef itself. It seemed clear from their
movement they were also collecting. When
it was sufficiently light, he saw they had two
kayaks on the reef.
“As it lightened more, three of them
stopped collecting and commenced fishing.
The fourth one looked like he was left to do
the processing. Although I cannot swear to
it, it looked like any fish, regardless of size,
was going to the processing area. I reported
this on the 1800 043 536 number.
“Again I have excellent telephoto images,
car images and number plates. Subsequently,
I filled in the on-line form and sent it
off. Ticked the box offering to assist in a
prosecution. You guessed it ... haven’t heard a
peep in reply. Not even an acknowledgement
of receipt of the online form.
“ I fear a complaint by a nobody like me
will get the usual public service treatment.
I’m hoping your name may prompt some
response, in the very least,” Bill writes.
We have calls into Fisheries pursuing this
matter at a higher level, but are interested to
know how many of our readers have reported
illegal fishing without a response? From our
experience, it’s rife
Given the revenue generated by our
fishing licences, taxes in general, and the
savings of amalgamated councils, surely it’s
time to invest in fisheries inspectors? Studies
have found 85-90 per cent compliance with
rec fishos – it’s not anglers – it’s the criminals,
gangs and alien cultures that deserve on-
site education, compliance and, yes, much
steeper fines. h
Sydney’s illegal fishing
Razing Newport Reef – whole tribes go about collecting sea creatures without any sign of
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