Enforcement outcomes Q3 2014-2015
Numbers of Fisheries inspections undertaken
Fisheries Officers conducted over 14,753 inspections during the period between 1 January 2015 – 31 March 2015 (Quarter 3)
Table detailing the number of inspections and enforcement outcomes summarised by fishing sector.
Verbal Warnings Issued
Official Warnings Issued
Infringement Notices Issued
Unlicensed/Take For Sale
Marine Parks - Inspections
Major enforcement and preventative operations
Priority 1 – Detect, investigate, disrupt and dismantle the black market in high value fish species, including serious organised fisheries criminal activity
There are several ongoing operations targeting individuals trafficking in commercial quantities of abalone. Further information will be released at the conclusion of the operations.
TARGETED PATROL ACTIVITY
A number of abalone offences were detected in the Central Region this quarter. These offences involved significant amounts of abalone being harvested from Port Phillip and Western Port Bay which resulted in the seizure of dive equipment and a vehicle. One case involved 3 divers who were apprehended with 273 abalone of which 259 were undersized. Briefs of evidence are being prepared for these matters.
This use of illegal equipment is the biggest threat to the sustainability of warm water fish species such as Golden Perch and Murray Cod. Ongoing tactical patrols are being used to assist with the detection of these offences.
COURT PROSECUTION OUTCOMES
One offender was found guilty of taking 156 abalone (138 undersize), from the Port Phillip Bay intertidal zone during the closed season. He was convicted, and sentenced to an aggregate 1 month imprisonment. He was fined $1500 and ordered to pay costs of $197 dollars. All dive gear was forfeited.
Two offenders were found guilty of charges relating to the taking of 104 abalone. No conviction was recorded. Each was placed on Good behaviour bond for 12 months on the condition that they pay $1500 to the court fund. $1000 security payment paid in lieu of the motor vehicle seized was forfeited.
Two offenders appeared before court in relation to abalone offences. Both men were fined $15,000 and all equipment forfeited and costs ordered. The accused have appealed the severity of sentencing and will appear before the County Court at a later date.
Priority 2 – Ensure the accuracy of catch & effort reporting in commercial license and permit holders; and detect and prevent quota fraud
TARGETED PATROL ACTIVITYA lot of work was carried out in the commercial abalone sector in this quarter. This was in response to observations and issues identified that required significant effort to investigate and action. After hours follow up inspections at Abalone Receivers, in transit inspections and on landing inspections resulted in several alleged offenders and offences being detected.
Fisheries Officers participated in a seafood company training day. Fisheries Officers were available to answer questions and provide guidance during the training.
Fisheries Officers are continuing to provide education to commercial fisherman in relation to their responsibilities as a licence holder and the compliance process, particularly in relation to the completion of paperwork.
Four commercial fishermen appeared before the court for separate matters in relation to catch and effort fraud charges and false and misleading information. The fines received ranged from $1500 to $8000.
A number of other matters are currently pending for alleged breach of licence conditions.
Priority 3 – Police peak periods and locations of concentrated non-compliance and high volume activity
Operation SONIC was continued in quarter 3 with Fisheries Officers targeting pipi collection in Venus Bay. Patrols were conducted over the News Years weekend and the Australia Day weekend. A total of 1975 inspections were conducted during SONIC that resulted in 138 verbal warnings, 13 official (written) warnings, 5 Infringement notices and 1 prosecution brief.
Operation TRINITY was a state wide operation which targeted shellfish offences in the intertidal zone in popular fishing areas such as Warrnambool, Mornington, Cowes and Bayside Melbourne. The operation ran over eight weekends from January to March. Fisheries Officers conducted a large number of inspections that resulted in 156 verbal warnings, 162 official (written) warnings, 205 infringement notices and 12 briefs of evidence. Three cases involved individuals taking more than 70 abalone, and two with more than 120 abalone.
TARGETED PATROL ACTIVITY
There has been continued surveillance and targeted patrols in Port Phillip Bay on evening, night and weekends shifts due to the large number of small snapper aggregating in the area.
During one weekend Fisheries Officers issued 14 on the spot fines worth $6216 for various offences related to snapper. Other identified hot spots for these offences were the lower Yarra River and the Mornington Pier.
COURT PROSECUTION OUTCOMES
Three offenders were fined $1000,$800 and $800 respectively in relation to the possession of a commercial quantity of Southern Bluefin Tuna.
There are several briefs in progress regarding the alleged take of abalone from the intertidal zone. These matters will be heard in court at a later date.
Other core business priorities
MAINTAINING COMMUNITY CONFIDENCE
In Quarter 3 education activities were provided to 8401 students from 91 schools. This is the first quarter in 2014/2015 where student participation in Schools program increased from the previous year.
260 people visited the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre (MFDC) in Queenscliff. Over 2298 people attended the holiday program at the MFDC in the January school holidays. This is an increase from participation levels achieved in the previous summer holidays.
Fisheries Officer attended a number of community events including a fishing information night in Port Phillip region which was attended by over 200 members of the public and the Westernport Whiting Challenge annual fishing comp in Hastings. The annual camp at Bushranger Bay Cape Schanck was also conducted with youth from Dromana Secondary College as part of the ongoing Fisheries Crime intervention program run by Mornington Fisheries Officers.
Fisheries Officers also attended 4 festivals that attracted people from high-risk communities as part of Operation Enlighten. Fisheries Officers made contact with 5860 people at these events and talked with community members about responsible fishing behaviours and clarified fisheries rules and regulations.
In Quarter 3, the focus has shifted to Werribee and the issues associated with the fishing activities on a particular stretch of the river. Litter here is a significant issue. Developing suitable education resources remains a priority. A simple basic guide to responsible fishing was developed in Quarter 3.
Increasing Fisheries patrols outside of normal business hours: The analysis of general compliance trends and recreational fishing research over the last three years reveals that a majority of fishing activity occurs outside of normal business hours.
Similarly, weekends and public holidays account for a majority of offences committed. It is important, therefore, that education and enforcement resources are adequately deployed during these peak times. The Victorian Fisheries Authority aims to ensure that at least 25% of an officer's duty time is rostered outside of business hours.
In Quarter 3 (2014-2015), Fisheries Officers worked 1463 shifts outside normal business hours which equates to approximately 23 % of an officer's time. This is short of the 25% goals due to a number of Fisheries Officer vacancies.
Policing fishing offences in Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries: In Quarter 3 (2014-2015), fisheries officers conducted 495 patrols in Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries, resulting in 233 inspections.
Education about Marine Parks and Sanctuaries is delivered as part of the Educating for Compliance schools program and community programs.
Maintain the 13FISH reporting line
Find out more about 13FISH statistics for this quarter.