FROM THE MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE
DATE: Thursday, May 26, 2005
NEW ABALONE CATCH LAWS TO CRACK DOWN ON THEFT
The Bracks Government has announced the latest move to protect Victoria's recreational abalone stocks by cracking down on abalone thieves.
The Minister Responsible for Fisheries, Bob Cameron, said there was increasing concern about the decline of abalone stocks on recreational reefs within easy reach of metropolitan Melbourne, due to illegal fishing activity.
"The main features of the new controls are the reduction of abalone catch limits and the introduction of a closed season for central Victorian waters (from Cape Otway to Venus Bay including Port Phillip Bay)," Mr Cameron said.
Victoria is home to one of the world's last sustainable wild abalone fisheries.
Raids conducted last week by Fisheries Officers from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) found that most of the 500kg of abalone meat seized – with a retail value of more than $120,000 – was taken by thieves pretending to be recreational abalone fishers.
"Thieves masquerading as legitimate recreational abalone fishers have been flouting existing laws to make big profits. They are destroying abalone stocks for future generations" Mr Cameron said.
"This illegal activity threatens the existence of the entire fishery, including the pursuits of legitimate commercial and recreational fishers.
"The new controls strike a balance between maintaining a sustainable abalone fishery, supporting a legitimate commercial industry while providing continuing opportunities for recreational fishing.
"In particular, they address the immediate threat of illegal activity to abalone stocks in central Victorian waters.
"By reducing the bag and possession limit in these waters to five, multi-tripping becomes less lucrative and more time consuming for abalone thieves."
The Government has undertaken extensive consultation through the Regulatory Impact Statement process to develop the new rules.
"The Bracks Government is making the decisions to protect Victoria's future. We're listening and working with all Victorians", Mr Cameron said.
Mr Cameron said the changes, which will come into effect on 1 September 2005 included:
· Removal of the requirement to cut the meat of recreationally caught abalone in all Victorian waters at the request of recreational abalone divers;
· Introduction of a permanent closure of the recreational abalone fishery in central Victorian waters except for 60 nominated days each year;
· Reduction of the recreational abalone daily bag limit and possession limit in central Victorian waters from 10 to 5 per person;
· Removal of the current Statewide seasonal closure on the recreational take of greenlip abalone. This is replaced by the introduction of a permanent ban on the recreational and commercial take of greenlip abalone in Port Phillip Bay;
· Removal of the existing Statewide boat/vehicle limit of 50 abalone;
· Retention of the current recreational abalone daily bag limit and possession limit of 10 per person for all Victorian waters other than in, on or near central Victorian waters.
Mr Cameron said that each year DPI would work closely with groups which represent recreational abalone fishers to determine which 60 days should be open for abalone fishing in central Victorian waters.
"DPI will monitor the impact of the new rules to ensure that changes in central Victorian waters do not push illegal activity to areas further to the east or west," Mr Cameron said.
The black market trade of abalone is an organised and lucrative industry. Illegal abalone can be bought for $40 per kilogram, has a retail value of $240 per kilogram and is sold in restaurants for between $80 and $120 per serve.
Mr Cameron said the changes to recreational abalone fishing regulations were the latest step by the Bracks Government to crack down on abalone crime. Previous measures have included:
· A new indictable offence for trafficking in priority species including abalone (with maximum penalties of 10 years jail or a fine of $120,000);
· An increase of 30 per cent in the number of Fisheries Officers
· New search and arrest powers for Fisheries Officers;
· A Statewide 24-hour phone line – 13-FISH – to report illegal fishing activity.http://www.dpc.vic.g...a9?OpenDocumentComment - At least the regulations are not as severe as they originally proposed. The bag limit if 5 (not 4) and there are 60 (not 30) days to fish.