Illegal net fishers in Port Phillip fined

02 July 2024

Two men from Altona Meadows have been convicted and fined nearly $16,000 for illegally netting fish in Port Phillip last year.

Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) Director of Education and Enforcement Ian Parks said the men, aged 78 and 43, had pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to several charges including the unauthorised use of commercial fishing equipment, illegally selling fish, and dealing in the proceeds of crime.

“The older man, who was fined $5500, is one of eight remaining commercial licence holders in Port Phillip, permitted to catch fish on long lines, but not with nets, which were phased out from the bay in April 2022. The younger man was fined $10,300,” Mr Parks said.

The six-month investigation, code named Operation Dybrin, began in June 2023 when Fisheries Officers located a large quantity of mesh net hidden along a remote section of shoreline on the western side of Port Phillip.

Following months of surveillance and probing, officers identified one of the men as a licensed commercial long line fisher in Port Phillip, working with his son.

In an effort to remain undetected, the duo had been fishing with up to 844 metres of net under the cover of darkness, often traveling dangerously without navigation lights visible on their boat.

Having launched their vessel, they would collect hidden nets from the shoreline, catch a variety of fish, then stash the nets back ashore before returning to the boat ramp with their haul, which included snapper, gummy shark, and bream.

The men were apprehended in November 2023 as Fisheries Officers executed a search warrant at their residence to secure evidence and seize the commercial fishing vessel used to commit the offences.

Officers also determined that the illegally caught fish had been sold at least five times to a seafood wholesaler in Melbourne.

If you see or suspect illegal fishing in Victoria, call our 24/7 reporting service, 13FISH (133474), to speak directly to a Fisheries Officer. You can remain anonymous.