Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba is worried about the potential long-term damage caused by overfishing at Lake Illawarra.
Councillor Saliba, who heads the Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee, said she was alarmed at the number of community accounts of illegal overfishing over the Christmas break.
“Like everyone else in our city, I am most concerned about the future of Lake Illawarra. We must do all we can as a community to stop any overfishing or exploitation,” Cr Saliba said.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has launched a crackdown on excessive cockle fishing, with fisheries officers patrolling the area around the lake.
The move comes after some fishers were reportedly seen in possession of hundreds of the sought-after shellfish. The daily bag limit for cockles is 50 per person.
Cr Saliba said she was concerned about the effect of cockle overfishing on the lake’s ecosystem. “The cockles play an important part in filtering water,” she said.
The mayor said the number of cockle collectors had “escalated” in recent weeks.
“People who live along the lake, who drive along that road (Reddall Parade) everyday are seeing huge numbers of people out there collecting cockles,” she said.
Cr Saliba said it was “heartening to see residents wanting to protect the lake by reporting illegal activity” and urged people to continue to dob-in lawbreakers.
However, she warned people against being vigilantes.
“You don’t want people taking action and approaching others because that could be dangerous,” she said.
Cr Saliba will raise the issue with NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair.