Police crack down on theft from oyster farms as consumers warned of health risks
Article from ABC News
New South Wales police and primary industry authorities have launched a covert operation to crack down on oyster thefts over the festive season.
Almost 2,000 oysters have been stolen on the mid-north coast already this month.
Operation Trident will attempt to disrupt or dismantle the oyster black market as well as deter thieves.
Glen Tritton from the Department of Primary Industries says the seasonal rise in oyster theft is a significant problem.
“The price of oysters at this time of the year is quite high and I guess that is the catalyst for oyster theft,” he said.
“In very recent times there has been a theft of about 60 dozen oysters from an area in the Macleay River, at South West Rocks, and there has been three instances of theft from the Wallis Lakes area at Forster Tuncurry.
“The operation includes covert surveillance and overt inspections up and down the NSW coast that aims to disrupt and dismantle a black market which is responsible for ripping off hard-working oyster farmers.”
New South Wales Farmers’ Association oyster committee chairman Kevin McAsh says the losses are more than just to farmer livelihood.
“They are likely to tear damage the vessels that the oysters are in and also damage the infrastructure that they are grown on,” he said.
Sale of stolen oysters pose health risk
NSW Food Authority’s compliance investigation and enforcement director Peter Day said the black market oyster trade also poses a health risk to consumers.
He warned consumers that the purchase of oysters from unrecognised sellers posed major health risks because there is no guarantee thieves will use refrigeration before sale.
“Most illegal seafood is stored in the backs of unrefrigerated trucks and we strongly advise against anyone consuming seafood if they don’t know where it’s come from,” he said.
“Stolen oysters might not come from an area covered by the NSW Shellfish Program. Only buy oysters from reputable retailers as these oysters have been monitored for their safety.”
Anyone with information on oyster thefts are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
In addition to this article Port Macquarie News also reported on a covert operation to target oyster thieves in Port Macquarie and along the NSW coast.
Operation Trident is an ongoing, multi-phase operation launched to deter oyster thefts and illegal sales in the lead up to Christmas.
But Hastings oyster farmers are asking the community to remain vigilant, as a key part of combating black market seafood trade during the festive season.
Former Port Macquarie oyster farmer and long-time industry advocate, Mark Bulley, was instrumental in the operation’s inception in 2007.
“Back then we were becoming very concerned about the amount of pilfering going on,” Mr Bulley said. “It wasn’t uncommon for thousands of oysters to disappear over the span of a couple of days.” Read the full article here