Undersized fish seized during Operation Small Fry.
Undersized fish seized during Operation Small Fry.

Third worst for 'small fry' offences

WOOLGOOLGA has been called out as the third worst area for fisheries offences, after a state-wide crackdown.

Since March last year Operation Small Fry focussed on prohibited size fish offences across NSW. Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries officers seized 5,379 illegally harvested fish and shellfish during the blitz.

Greater Sydney was the worst performer with five other metropolitan postcodes in the top 10.

Regional areas to feature in the 'top 10' were Port Kembla in second, followed by Woolgoolga in third spot. Other regional hotspots were Shellharbour (4), Eden (5) and Merimbula (10).

Men were the most prolific offenders by far with 30-34 year olds being the most over-represented age group.

NSWDPI Director of Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said 1,350 offences were detected during the operation with a whopping $102,500 worth of on-the-spot fines handed out to those caught possessing or selling prohibited size fish. Twenty six others will, or already have faced the courts for serious offences involving prohibited size fish.

Mr Tully said whiting, snapper, bream, tarwhine and kingfish were the finfish species most commonly involved.

Undersized fish seized during Operation Small Fry.
Undersized fish seized during Operation Small Fry.

"In one instance, fisheries officers from North Sydney found and seized 41kg of prohibited size Yellowtail Kingfish concealed in a man's boat on Christmas Eve, 2018,” Mr Tully said.

Turban snails, abalone, crabs and lobsters were the most common invertebrates seized by fisheries officers.

DPI appreciates the community's help bringing the offenders to account with 652 reports about prohibited size fish coming through the Fishers Watch service. Anyone spotting illegal fishing activity should report it to the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or via the free FishSmart NSW app.

"We've learnt a lot through Operation Small Fry and continuing to reduce the prevalence of prohibited size fish offences in NSW will remain an enduring priority for us. We'll be refocusing our efforts on these problem areas later in the year through another state-wide operation tentatively named Operation Bigger Fish,” Mr Tully said.