WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: A confronting picture of a dead platypus caught in a crab pot, has revealed the devastating impacts of illegal fishing in Victoria’s rivers.
Mick Miles made the discovery at Gippsland’s Latrobe River, near Hill End, on Sunday.
It is believed the cage the native animal was caught in was an illegal home-made yabby trap.
“Found some Lowlife’s Cray pot on the banks of the Latrobe river today,” he wrote on a Gippsland Facebook group where he shared the picture.
He said he had never seen a platypus before, so finding the dead creature was a sombre first encounter.
Others on social media were saddened by the picture and urged authorities to do more to prevent illegal fishing in the area.
“This is heartbreaking,” one wrote.
Another added: “Poor Platypus didn't stand a chance”.
‘Not worth risking wildlife for a few yabbies’
Platypus conservation group PlatypusSPOT condemned the illegal practice, saying it wasn’t worth risking Australia’s wildlife for a few yabbies.
“Platypus drowned in an illegal home-made yabby trap on the LaTrobe River,” the group wrote on Facebook, sharing the heartbreaking picture on Monday.
“This is exactly why we campaigned so hard to get opera house nets banned in Victoria but unfortunately uncaring people will continue to make their owns traps,” it added.
“This is not worth a couple of yabbies!!”
Anyone who finds illegal traps is advised to make a report at 13 FISH so Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) can identify hotspots for targeted patrols and catch those responsible, PlatypusSPOT advised.
13 platypus drownings in 2018 by illegal traps
While this was the first known incident so far this year the DELWP was aware of involving the drowning death of a platypus, last year there were 13 known drownings plus seven deaths of rakali (native water rats) by illegal traps and opera house nets.
Peter Simpson, DELWP Gippsland Program Manager of Compliance Operations told Yahoo News the home-made trap used for catching yabbies or freshwater crayfish was illegal in Victoria.
“There are alternative wildlife safe yabby nets available in the marketplace to purchase,” he said.
“For unknown reasons, air breathing animals such as platypus and rakali enter these illegal traps and due to the design of the trap they are unable to escape, and drown, creating long-term effects on the local and vulnerable platypus population.”
Under the Wildlife Act 1975 there are various penalties associated with taking or being in possession of protected wildlife or using prohibited equipment which is up to a maximum of $38,0562, and/or 24 months imprisonment, the DELWP said.
The incident came weeks after a fisherman was fined almost $500 for catching an “oversized” fish at Swan Hill, measuring almost a metre, after he admitted to knowing it was illegal to take it from the river.
To report illegal fishing activities, contact the Victorian Fisheries Authority on 13 FISH (133 474) or contact DELWP on 136 186.
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