Arrests over hidden abalone haul

Two Melbourne men will be charged on summons after allegedly being caught at Altona on the weekend with an illegal haul of abalone in a hidden compartment of a portable icebox.

The two men, a 45-year-old from West Footscray and a 32-year-old from Coolaroo, were arrested by Fisheries Victoria officers after the men returned to the Altona boat ramp with their vessel early on Saturday afternoon.

Fisheries Victoria Central Operations Manager Iain Bruce said it was alleged that one of the men used Scuba gear to dive to a reef under about three metres of water near the RAAF base at Point Cook and remove the abalone.

Mr Bruce said the man was allegedly seen lifting several bags up from the water to his companion waiting in the vessel.

He said Fisheries Officers later approached the two men and inspected their vessel when they returned to the Altona boat ramp.

'The pair allegedly presented 10 large abalone for inspection but the officers found a haul of 183 abalone, many of them undersize, concealed beneath a false bottom of an icebox found on the boat,' Mr Bruce said.

'The two men were then arrested and taken to the Altona North Police Station for interview and their vessel, trailer and dive equipment were also confiscated.'

Mr Bruce said the maximum number of abalone that could be taken during a specified day for abalone removal was five per person and that abalone taken from Port Phillip Bay had to be at least 10cm in diameter.

Under the Fisheries Act, the maximum penalties for illegal abalone harvesting are a 10-year jail sentence and fines of up to approximately $150,000.

The alleged offenders will be charged on summons.

Anyone who sees or suspects illegal fishing activity is urged to call the 24 hour reporting line,
13-FISH (13 3474).

Department of Primary Industries VIC website