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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Thursday 22 December 2022

Timely Fisheries operation off Geraldton will lead to prosecutions

The western rock lobster ‘whites’ run has seen a successful compliance operation by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to counter illegal fishing activity.

From 5 -16 December, officers focused on addressing the growing concern from the Geraldton community about interference to recreational rock lobster fishing gear.

Operation Shorewick used covert surveillance and search warrants as part of a strategy to detect illegal activity, and four people are now facing prosecution for multiple offences.

The intensive operation involved more than two dozen patrols with officers checking more than 680 fishers, especially those fishing in the early hours of morning, to gather evidence and track down offenders.

Unauthorised interference with fishing gear is very difficult to detect and offenders generally conceal their actions under the cover of darkness, in remote locations or a long way offshore where they believe their activities will not be observed.

The nature of rock lobster fishing requires pots to be set and left for a period of time, usually overnight, expecting goodwill among recreational fishers so individuals can catch their fair share of lobsters. 

There’s also a community expectation that DPIRD will investigate offences such as the unlawful interference with fishing gear and removing rock lobster from pots with significant penalties applied.

Two people are now facing prosecution for interfering with rock lobster pots, another for obstruction of an officer, and a fourth person will have to front court for taking undersize rock lobster, plus excess bag limit of lobsters and sea urchins, not having a rock lobster licence, not tail clipping as required for recreationally caught lobsters and using illegal means.    

  A DPIRD compliance officer checking seized evidence 

In one case from the operation, compliance officers uncovered 35 sea urchins and 11 visibly undersize western rock lobsters, many of them displaying carapace injuries consistent with the use of a pole spear. Two suspects were apprehended during a search in relation to gear interference.

DPIRD’s Regional Compliance Director for the Midwest Mick Kelly said interfering with other people’s fishing gear, such as pulling pots was a breach of the Fish Resources Management Act, which has a general penalty of up to $25,000, and one-year’s imprisonment.

“The officers involved in Operation Shorewick have done a great job of uncovering illegal rock lobster fishing activity and gathering intelligence that will assist with ongoing investigations.”

Last modified: 22/12/2022 12:07 PM

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