A CAMPERDOWN fish and chip shop owner and two associates have been arrested for allegedly laundering recreationally caught fish through his shop and dealing in the proceeds of crime.
Victorian Fisheries Authority acting director of education and enforcement Brooke Hall said the shop owner’s seven-and-a-half metre boat, valued at $150,000, was seized by fisheries officers and investigators, along with a truck.
“Also seized were several boxes of frozen fish fillets, estimated to weigh 60kg, and fishing gear including 23 fishing rods, two with electric reels, all worth in excess of $10,000,” Mr Hall said.
“Fishmongers and fish and chip shops must only sell seafood that has been purchased from licensed commercial fishers and cannot sell fish caught by recreational anglers, including themselves.
“The extensive investigation, code-named Operation Torpedo, conducted surveillance on several occasions on the three men while they were fishing along the south-west Victorian coast.
“It will be alleged that fish caught on each trip, including gummy shark and school shark (commonly sold as flake), mako shark, flathead, snapper, morwong, leatherjacket and gurnard, were taken back to the shop, processed, then laundered and sold as legitimately sourced seafood.
“The sale of recreationally caught fish undermines the legitimate commercial fishing industry and has the potential to threaten the sustainability of Victoria’s fisheries resource.
“Recreationally caught fish are not subject to any of the food safety measures required under the Food Standards Code.
“The sale of illegally sourced fish places the health of purchasers at risk, and the reputation of retail businesses.”
Mr Hall said fisheries and food safety legislation required fish retailers and wholesalers to only buy seafood from legitimate commercial sources and to keep records of the purchase transaction, including the name and address of the provider.
“Fisheries Officers and investigators will continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised illegal fishing activity as a priority.
“We are dedicated to exploring all avenues to bring offenders to justice and protect Victoria's fisheries resources for sustainable and legitimate utilisation,” he said.
Anyone who sees or suspects illegal fishing is urged to call the 24-hour reporting line 13FISH (133474), anytime.