NSW restaurants in deep over illegal lobster stock

Two Newcastle restaurants are facing possible charges after being found in possession of a number of black market lobsters in two separate raids in the Hunter region recently.

NSW Department of Primary Industries Director Fisheries Compliance, Patrick Tully, said Hunter District Fisheries officers seized a total of 45 Eastern Rock Lobsters during the raids of the premises in Newcastle and Adamstown, in December 2017 and February 2018.

“Black marketing seafood presents a food safety risk, especially restaurants selling seafood with unknown hygiene background,” Mr Tully said.

“It is Illegal to sell any recreationally caught fish including Eastern Rock Lobsters, and it is also illegal to buy or sell eastern rock lobsters not legally caught by licenced commercial fishers with NSW DPI lobster tags attached.

“The NSW lobster fishery is a highly regulated, share managed quota fishery. It is a small but valuable industry with a gross value of around $11.5 million.

“Black marketing undermines the strict management arrangements that aim to maintain a sustainable and viable industry.”

28 Eastern Rock Lobsters were seized (16 live and 12 frozen) from the Newcastle restaurant in December, while 17 Eastern Rock Lobsters, including two of a prohibited size, were seized (16 live and 1 frozen) in Adamstown last month.

Mr Tully said none of the Eastern Rock Lobsters had NSW DPI tags attached.

“All of the live lobsters were returned to the water. The frozen lobsters were retained as evidence,” Mr Tully said.

“The seizures follow the separate apprehension of a commercial fisherman last month who was found with 40 eastern rock lobsters following an operation in the Hunter region. 

“DPI Fisheries allege the commercial fisherman took the lobsters without having the appropriate license. We are now examining potential charges of trafficking a commercial quantity of an indictable species of fish.”

One of the restaurants now faces potential charges of trafficking fish which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. The other restaurant will face potential charges of possession of a priority species in circumstances of aggravation which carries maximum penalty of $44,000 and 12 months imprisonment.


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