Oyster theft and illegal seafood sales in the spotlight
STOLEN oysters are common on the black market being peddled by thieves on the coast over Christmas.
Most often they have been stolen from leases and oyster farming families, but justice is being served on the illegal seafoods swindle by the Department of Primary Industries this Christmas holidays.
NSW DPI Director Fisheries Compliance Pat Tully said DPI Fisheries, DPI Biosecurity and Food Safety, and NSW Police would be targeting illegal sales as part of the ongoing Operation Trident.
"The Christmas and New Year holiday period is the peak season for seafood and oyster consumption, and we're attuned to the expected rise in the illegal seafood trade" Mr Tully said.
The operation includes covert and overt patrols and inspections across New South Wales, and is designed to detect and deter oyster theft and protect consumers against potentially unsafe black market produce.
NSW DPI Director Biosecurity and Food Safety Compliance Peter Day said black market oysters may not come from areas covered by the NSW Shellfish Program and so may put consumers at serious risk.
"NSW DPI recommends people only buy oysters from reputable retailers as these oysters have been monitored for their safety," he said.
"Oysters that haven't undergone the usual tests to food safety, or haven't undergone the purification procedures applied to commercial product are a serious health risk; they can make you very sick."
NSW Police Marine Area Commander Mark Hutchings said it is a criminal offence to steal oysters.
"Stealing and illegally selling oysters hurts the hard-working producers who make their living producing and providing a legitimate product for people," he said.
"We will continue to work closely with the Department of Primary Industries to ensure anyone selling illegal seafood is arrested and put before the court.
A 39-year-old North Coast man was convicted of larceny in August this year for stealing oysters and preparing them for sale in March.
More than 7000 black market oysters have been seized so far this year under Operation Trident.
Anyone with information on suspected oyster theft or marine-related crimes should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: police.nsw.gov.au.
Illegal fishing can be reported to Fishers Watch on 1800 043 536.