Joint operation disrupts alleged black-market dealing syndicate in Perth

Australian authorities in Western Australia have disrupted a syndicate allegedly involved in black-market dealing and trafficking of abalone.

In a joint operation on Saturday 30 October 2021, officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF); Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and WA Police, executed two search warrants at properties located in the southern suburbs of Perth.

Operation DEEPWOLF targeted fishing syndicates involved in the illegal trade of seafood in the southwest and Perth metropolitan areas.

Officers from the ABF initially detained three unlawful non-citizens and located an additional person suspected of working in breach of their visa conditions. The ABF investigation will continue into the alleged importation of imitation firearms under the Customs Act 1901.

Acting ABF Regional Commander Shaun Senior said the ABF is committed to protecting Australia’s maritime environment and defending our borders from a range of potential threats, including the illegal fishing in Australian waters and the illicit trade of seafood products.

“The combined efforts of the ABF and partner agencies like DPIRD Fisheries and WA Police, enable surveillance, patrol and response capabilities, to combat illegal activity and threats to Australia’s maritime environment,” acting Commander Senior said.

During searches, authorities seized several items, including a vehicle believed to have been used to transport large quantities of black-market abalone.

A number of people believed to be involved in the alleged illegal trade of seafood, including a 61-year-old woman from Canning Vale, have been interviewed. Investigations are continuing.

It is illegal to sell, purchase or barter with recreationally caught fish in Western Australia.

Individuals involved in trafficking priority fish, like abalone and rock lobster, could face four year’s imprisonment or fines up to $400,000, as well as court orders, licence suspensions and vehicle or vessel forfeitures.

Any black-market trade in abalone not only undermines the legitimate livelihoods of commercial fishers but can put consumers at risk and impact on abalone sustainability. 

Commercial abalone fishing in WA is undertaken by licensed commercial abalone divers operating a limited number of managed fishery licences authorised to take specific amounts of abalone (or quota) in specific zones.