Oyster thieves caught out by fisherman

BUSTED: Graeme Peach reported people allegedly taking oysters illegally from Sandstone Point.
BUSTED: Graeme Peach reported people allegedly taking oysters illegally from Sandstone Point. Luke Simmonds

BRIBIE Island's oyster garden leads the country in sea life restoration, but it's being undermined by hordes of alleged illegal shellfish farmers.

Crab pot fisherman Graeme Peach, who has lived in the area for 15 years, said he's spotted groups of up to 20 people with buckets and bags working together to harvest oysters.

"(The oyster garden) is very interesting and very worthwhile, however, I believe that they're waging a losing battle,” he said.

"I was checking my (crab) pots in the afternoon and there were 14 people down on the reefs that are covered with oysters. They were taking oysters off the reef to I guess eat at home.

Mr Peach said he confronted the group, but said none of them spoke English, so he reported it to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

A DAF spokesman said oysters can only be taken from public areas if they are consumed on the spot, while each person can only possess 50 pipis, mud whelks or cockles at one time.

Exceeding the shellfish possession limit can result in on-the-spot fines of $487 and maximum penalties of $121,900.

"This possession limit includes any that have been collected previously and have not yet been consumed. For example, if a fisher has 25 pipis at home, they can only take and keep another 25.

"This possession limit does not apply to oysters which can only be taken at public areas and must be consumed on-the-spot.

"All oyster beds outside of marked licensed oyster grounds are classified as public areas.”

He said DAF was responding to multiple complaints at Sandstone Point, while others had already been charged.

"Sixteen fisheries infringement notices with fines totalling $7792 were issued during the Anzac Day and Labour Day holidays for offences including: taking protected female blue swimmer crabs, undersize blue swimmer crabs, excess molluscs and oyster removal,” he said.

"A fisher who removed oysters at Woody Point and did not eat them on the spot was fined $487. QBFP officers have returned hundreds of oysters to the water in the area in recent weeks.”

"Monitoring, routine patrols and education of fishers at Sandstone Point as well the Bribie Island area is ongoing. "

Visit the DAF website for more information.

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