by Alan Everett
Breaking the strict paper trail used to regulate the sale and distribution of abalone has proved very costly for a Mitcham couple. The husband, aged 42 and his wife, 34, ran a private company in Box Hill and pleaded guilty in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court to repackaging abalone bought on the open market and re-selling under their own label.
The company was convicted and fined $5,000 and each defendant fined $3,500 without conviction.
Both pleaded guilty to removing, damaging or altering packaging containing abalone, and selling abalone without properly labelled packaging.
Chief Investigator at Fisheries Victoria Murray Donaldson said there was a strict audit trail from the licensed diver to the dinner plate in a suburban restaurant or an overseas market.
'If we allow packaging or labelling or the paper trail to be corrupted in any way it then provides opportunities for illegal abalone to be ‘laundered’ into our markets,' Mr. Donaldson said.
'This type of offending is too common in outlets across Melbourne’s east and southeast and this verdict should act as a deterrent and give others the opportunity to contact Fisheries if they have any doubts about what they are doing.'
Magistrate Nunsio La Rosa said he accepted the coupIe were remorseful but ignorance of the law was not and would never be an excuse.
He said there was no allegation of blending abalone into the black market and the offending involved cosmetic re-packaging, though no doubt for profit.
Mr. Donaldson said anyone trading in abalone and not familiar with the governing legislation should contact the Department of Primary Industries’ Abalone Quota Officer on (03) 9658
Twelve kilograms of packaged abalone was seized and will be forfeited.