POLICE, fisheries officials and maritime safety officers were out in force over the weekend as thousands of recreation anglers hit Port Phillip and Western Port for the country’s biggest snapper competition.
With more than 2000 people and hundreds of boats expected to take part in the annual fishing competition, which coincides with the start of the snapper season, uniformed and water police, Fisheries Victoria officials and Transport Safety Victoria officers were keen to ensure safety regulations and bag limits were being observed.
Boats, trailers and vehicles were inspected at boat ramps across the bayside, Frankston and peninsula region, while police also conducted breath tests and checked safety equipment.
Fisheries Victoria acting director for education and enforcement Ian Parks said fisheries officers would be focusing on size and bag limits in addition to checking licences during Operation Raptor, which will runs from the Melbourne Cup weekend across the holiday season.
He said fisheries officers would be targeting snapper anglers in Port Phillip and Western Port day and night over the course of the season, so it was vital fishermen stuck to the mandated catch limits.
“Fisheries officers will be out in marked and unmarked vessels, seizing boats and fishing equipment where snapper bag and size limits have been exceeded,” Mr Parks said.
“Anglers who breach snapper bag and size limits face multiple fines of up to $433 on the spot, or $10,000 and/or six months imprisonment.
“The courts can prohibit offenders from fishing altogether for up to 12 months if found guilty of recreational fishing offences and, for serious offences, this prohibition can be even greater.”
The minimum legal length for snapper is 28cm and the bag limit is 10, of which only three can equal or exceed 40cm. Snapper must be landed whole so Fisheries Officers can measure them.
Mr Parks urged members of the public to report suspect illegal snapper fishing by calling the 13FISH (13 3474) intelligence reporting line.
The state government announced last Friday additional boating safety officers had been deployed across Victoria to assist Transport Safety Victoria’s maritime safety branch in promoting safety on the water this summer.
Minister for Ports David Hodgett said the extra boating safety officers, funded under the state government’s Boating Safety and Facilities Program, would play an important role in educating the state’s estimated 270,000 recreational boaters and help to spread information about boating safety.
“I am also pleased to support a stronger on-water safety team this boating season which will be underpinned by a state-wide campaign reminding boaters to wear life jackets,” Mr Hodgett said.
“This campaign will highlight the devastation that not wearing a lifejacket can have on friends and loved ones who are left behind.”
TSV director of maritime safety Peter Corcoran said boating safety officers played a key role in promoting the safety of all waterway users.
He said that while most boaters did the right thing on the water, a large number of avoidable serious injuries and deaths occurred each year.
He said latest TSV figures showed that in 2013-14 there were 1287 recreational boating incidents, including 1012 vessel disablements. Tragically, 10 boaters lost their lives on Victorian waters during the same period.