Illawarra residents fear their lake will be decimated if visiting fishers continue to take more than their fair share of cockles.
In the past couple of days, Lake Illawarra has been a mecca for residents and tourists who want to collect the shellfish.
However, despite clear signs that state the rules, some people are exceeding the allowed bag limits.
Department of Primary Industries states a person must have a fishing licence and can only collect 50 cockles and 20 welks each day. The fisher has to collect the creatures themselves.
Children under 18 years of age do not require a licence and can collect 50 cockles and 20 welks.
Vanessa Wright, who grew up in Oak Flats, wants visitors to have more respect for the Lake Illawarra ecosystems.
“I am concerned about the sustainability of some people taking such large amounts of cockles,” she said.
“They are being greedy and are doing it without any regard for the environment.
“They are pillaging the lake. If this behaviour continues then in a couple of years there will be no cockles left.”
Ms Wright filmed a man at Lake Illawarra’s who had an estimated 500 cockles in buckets, apparently collected on behalf of his family.
“Taking that number of cockles is not sustainable,” she said. “His attitude was terrible and ignorant.
“He thought it was fine to take 500 cockles at one time just because it was legal.”
Ms Wright wants to work with the community to lobby the state government to change the rules.
“The government needs to make fines more hefty,” she said. “The limit of 50 shells per person is ridiculous.
“People have an attitude of entitlement. They think, just because the law says you can collect 50 shells each, they should bring every person in their family to collect the cockles.
“If people cannot collect in a reasonable and sustainable way then the law needs to change.”
The Mercury visited Lake Illawarra South on Tuesday. Bang and Doi – who are Vietnamese men from Casula – knew the the bag limit.
They had about double the legal limit and when confronted threw the extra cockles back into the ocean.
They said they had collected the extra cockles for their wives. The men said they would be more careful about how many they collected next time.
The Iguyen family which included a husband, wife and their child, did not have a licence and had more than 50 cockles each. They also reluctantly threw their stash back into the ocean.
Leanne Crilly took to Facebook to vent her frustration about the excessive fishing.
“They only think of themselves and not our beautiful environment and ecosystem,” she said.
Bobbie DeLange said “the lake will loose its ecosystem. We need to care for the environment.”
Ms Wright was appalled to receive a Facebook message someone asking where the cockle fishing location was after she posted the video.
The person wanted to bring 20 cousins and 32 kids to collect cockles which would mean 2600 cockles could be collected.
Dom Paronetto has started a petition calling on the Department of Primary Industries to ban all cockle and mussel fishing in Lake Illawarra. In 12 hours, the petition had 500 signatures.