Aussie fisherman risks $11,000 fine with 'smug' photo
The spear fisherman posed for a photo with the blue groper only to be later told he faces a huge fine.
A spear fisherman's "smug" photo with NSW's official fish has ignited community anger for killing the friendly protected species.
When a woman came across the man holding the giant blue groper earlier this week at Hungry Point in Cronulla, in Sydney's south, she snapped a photo "not realising at the time what he had killed".
However when the reality hit, she ran back with her son to tell him what it was and that he could face a hefty fine for the illegal act.
It's unclear whether the fisherman knew what he caught, but after hearing about the fine, he suddenly took off "pretty fast".
"Maybe there should be signs at Hungry Point for spear fishermen who don't know, or need reminding what they are lawfully entitled to kill and not kill," the local told the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.
"Tragically, it would be too late for this gentle giant. It's a shame there were no fisheries licensing officers around."
The man's act generated a lot of outrage online, with one person commenting on "how smug he looks" in the photo. "Jerks like him make me sick, find him and fine him," they said on a local media's Facebook page.
Why are blue gropers so significant?
The friendly eastern blue groper is native to Australia and is found in coastal, marine waters in places like Queensland, Victoria and NSW, according to the Australian Museum.
It's most popularly known amongst scuba divers in NSW — especially around Sydney's Bronte and Coogee beaches — and was made the state's emblem fish in 1996.
"The species can grow to around 15kg and one metre in length. Adult gropers establish territories on rocky reefs, making them a much-admired fish among divers and snorkellers," the Department of Primary Industries said on their website.
Is this the first time a blue groper has been killed?
Sadly the species became protected in NSW in 1969 because of how much it was being targeted by spear fishers.
Some of the well-documented cases include:
In 2005, a blue groper believed to be the famous 'Bluey' was killed in Clovelly Beach, Sydney. It later emerged it was not Bluey but another Blue Groper, Sydney Morning Herald reports.
In 2009 a man was caught killing 15 eastern blue gropers at the Royal National Park, Daily Telegraph reports.
NSW Fisheries investigating Hungry Point incident
For recreational fishers a minimum size limit of 30cm and a bag limit of two blue gropers [caught on a line and with only one fish over 60cm] applies, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Penalties may include a $500 on the spot fine per offence for taking a groper by any method other than a line or handline, possession of prohibited size or exceeding the bag limit.
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Maximum penalties by way of court prosecution for an individual are $22,000 and/or six months jail for a first offence relating to size and bag limits, and $11,000 for taking a groper by an unlawful method.
A spokeswoman confirmed to Yahoo that the incident at Hungry Point, Cronulla is being investigated.
"The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is investigating after a photograph was obtained showing a large blue groper that may have been illegally taken by spear off Hungry Point, Cronulla," she said.
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