Officers net illegal native fish trade in Mildura

11 May 2021

A joint investigation with NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries has uncovered the illegal take of Murray cod and golden perch from the Murray River and their subsequent sale to a retail outlet in Victoria.

Director of Education and Enforcement with the Victorian Fisheries Authority Ian Parks said several individuals had been identified allegedly catching golden perch at Lock 11 and surrounds, then transporting the fish to a shop in Mildura where they were sold on the spot.

“It is illegal for recreational fishers to sell their catch, which can only be done by licensed commercial fishers. It is also illegal for shops to buy seafood from recreational fishers,” Mr Parks said.

“Last month, Fisheries Officers from both states interviewed 11 individuals, including two shop keepers from the retail outlet that had allegedly bought the fish. It will be alleged the fish were weighed on scales inside the shop and sellers were paid cash for their catch.

“Amongst items seized by officers were a quantity of whole frozen golden perch, electronic devices and CCTV security footage.”

In Victoria, recreational fishers who sell their catch face fines of up to $16,500 and six-months imprisonment. Retail outlets that buy fish from recreational fishers face fines of up to $33,000 and 12 months imprisonment.

Mr Parks said the shopkeepers were also interviewed regarding the provision of false documentation to officers to account for fish in shop freezers.

“To help protect the integrity of our fisheries and the safety of fish products for consumers, all seafood on commercial premises must be accounted for with receipts. This applies to all commercial wild catch fishers, aquaculture producers and seafood industry participants.

“Shops that buy or trade in recreationally caught fish risk the health of their customers, damage legitimate commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, put fish stocks at risk and weaken Victoria’s strong reputation for sustainable fisheries management.”

Mr Parks said Fisheries Officers have since conducted several inspections of shops in Mildura that sell seafood to explain the importance of retailing safe and legally obtained fish.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Director Fisheries Compliance, Dr Andrew Moriarty said this operation shows the commitment between Victoria and New South Wales on cracking down on illegal fishing activity.

“Cross-border collaboration on operations like this are so important to ensure we continue to protect and conserve fish stocks and fishing opportunities for current and future generations.”

“NSW DPI Fisheries Officers will continue to work with the Victorian Fisheries Authority so that this type of illegal fishing doesn’t detract from all the hard work both states do to ensure access to healthy fish stocks for the communities of NSW and Victoria.”

If you see or suspect illegal fishing in Victoria, call 13 FISH (13 3474) anytime.