The illegal killing of blue gropers has shocked a second community on Australia’s east coast, less than a fortnight after a killing in a Sydney suburb that left locals furious.
In recent weeks, four of the species — which are illegal to kill in NSW waters — have been speared.
The latest incident took place on January 5 at Plantation Point near Jervis Bay.
Local snorkelling tour company Woebegone Freediving called out the latest killings on Tuesday, labelling it “devastating”.
The business thanked fisheries for their swift response.
“Well done to the local fisheries crew for their diligent work in searching this individual’s catch and for the fines and gear confiscation. Great job in safeguarding our marine life,” they wrote.
The company shared a series of images showing the three slain fish, fisheries officers investigating, and one of the iconic fish while alive in the water.
“I have no words big enough to describe this devastation,” one local responded.
“I’m so sad to read of this yet again. These beautiful creatures are so placid and curious. What a hero spearing these beauties,” said another.
The Department of Primary Industries confirmed to news.com.au that the alleged offender potentially faces prosecution.
“The person of interest about this matter has been interviewed by NSW Fisheries Officers and the matter is being assessed for prosecution by senior fisheries compliance officials,” a spokesman for the department said.
“Blue groper are particularly susceptible to being taken by the method of spearfishing due to their inquisitive nature.
“Therefore, they are only allowed to be taken through the method of line fishing. In addition, line fishermen have a minimum size limit of 30cm and a bag limit of two, with only one fish over 60cm.”
It’s the second reported allegedly illegal killing in less than a month after a 26-year-old man was photographed after spearing a blue groper named ‘Gus’ in an unrelated incident at Oak Park rock pool in Cronulla – which is a no-spearfishing zone – on December 30.
NSW Police fined him $500 and an additional $300 from fisheries – a penalty the local community labelled “pathetic”.
The blue groper, known for being non-aggressive and unfazed by humans, has been the official fish of New South Wales since 1996 and is protected by law from spearfishing and commercial enterprise.
Blue gropers can only legally be taken by line in NSW, with huge penalties of $22,000 and prison time in place for breaches of two-per-person bag limits, while a maximum fine of $11,000 is in place for taking a groper by an unlawful method, such as spearfishing.