Fisheries officers who patrol Lake Illawarra are cracking down on cockle collectors.
Each person is allowed to collect 50 cockles per day and must have a fishing licence.
The officers patrol around Lake Illawarra, especially at Tallawarra, Berkeley and South Lake. They patrol during the day, night, on weekends and public holidays.
Reprimands for excessive fishing can range from a formal warning, a $500 on the spot fine or a notice to attend court.
Officer Emma Corfield said Lake Illawarra was a popular spot and a growing destination for collectors.
“Every season there seems to be more and more people coming to collect cockles,” she said.
“Social media has a lot to do with that. As soon as people find their cockles and are able to get their bag limits then they tell their friends and before you know it you have got lots and lots of people here.
“We do not want to stop people from coming here, we just want them to stick to the rules and regulations so there are enough cockles left for others to collect and for future generations.
“The majority of people do tend to stick to their bag limits. We do have signs strategically placed around the lake, which seem to work.
“If people do tell us they are not aware of the rules then that is not a good enough excuse.
“We do unfortunately get [people] who break those rules. Most of our clients are from south-western Sydney.”
Ms Corfield said the officers were doing what they could to crack down on excessive fishing.
“We would always like more feet on the ground,” she said.
“We are doing what we can. Now is a really busy time for us.
“We do risk assessments on the information we get through the Fisheries Watch Hotline and allocate our resources accordingly.”
Officers see a spike in collection when it is a public holiday and when Lake Illawarra is at low tide.