FISHERIES officers have arrested five men and seized their car for allegedly taking 399 blacklip abalone from waters around Cape Schanck.
Victorian Fisheries Authority director Ian Parks said 12 Fisheries officers backed up by police caught the “highly organised illegal fishing syndicate” from Pakenham, Cranbourne East and Botanic Ridge, Wednesday 18 March.
“This type of alleged illegal fishing has the potential to do serious damage to the sustainability of Victoria’s abalone population, which is highly valued by commercial and recreational fishers,” Mr Parks said.
Officers said they saw four men walk from the car park down to the rocks leaving one as a lookout. Three men were allegedly in the water for several hours diving for abalone while the fourth kept lookout.
Officers swooped when the men returned and allegedly stowed a large bag of abalone in their car boot.
Mr Parks said the offenders ran away “not making it far with others hiding in dense scrub nearby until being arrested”.
Officers allege 315 abalone were found in the boot with two more bags of 84 abalone found in the water. Of these 263 were said to be undersize.
After the arrests the abalone were returned to the water alive and the men taken to Rosebud police station.
They were charged under the Fisheries Act with taking and possessing a commercial quantity of a priority species, trafficking a commercial quantity of a priority species, and obstructing and hindering authorised officers.