Thieves become catch of the day

TWO men have wound up in hot water following the seizure of 30 tasty rock lobsters, one of the biggest recreational busts of its kind within the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

A covert surveillance operation by Marine Parks Authority and Department of Primary Industries officers led to the apprehension of the pair, who could now face fines of up to $11,000 in court if they are found guilty.

Marine park manager Nicola Johnstone said the haul consisted of 29 eastern rock lobsters, by far the most common in our waters, and a painted crayfish.

She said many had been a prohibited size, one of them was carrying eggs and all but two had been speared.

Eastern rock lobsters come in from deeper waters to the marine park in July and August and congregate at inshore reefs for a few months and are characterised by their green bodies and brownish to orange legs.

“The maximum legal length has been reduced from 200mm to 180mm to conserve more of the mature spawning lobster stock,” Ms Johnstone said.

“Berried lobsters, that is, females carrying eggs, must be returned to the water for the same reason.

“The minimum legal length for eastern rock lobsters remains at 104mm and the recreational bag limit is two per day.

“Eastern rock lobsters can grow to over 15kg with a maximum carapace length, or shell length, of around 260mm.

“It is timely to remind both commercial and recreational lobster trappers that they mark their traps appropriately.

"Recreational rock lobster fishers must set their traps in less than 10 metres of water and adhere to the bag and size limits.

“Recreational divers are only able to take two lobsters per person by hand.”

The joint agency blitz to monitor the inshore rock lobster fishery will continue until the end of next month. For more details, contact the Solitary Islands Marine Park office on 6652 0900.

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