THE second and last ring-leader of an elaborate illegal abalone syndicate was sentenced today in the County Court and has received a significant jail term. Director of Fisheries Education and Enforcement, Ian Parks, said the 54 year old male from Cairnlea was sentenced to two years and eight months jail, with a non-parole period of 16 months. “The man was also convicted and banned indefinitely from all fishing, ordered to pay $21,000 which was the proceeds of crime and had his car and diving gear forfeited,” Mr Parks said. “Remanded in prison last month, the man had a history of fisheries offending dating back to 2000. “The man pleaded guilty today to trafficking commercial quantities of abalone, which is a priority species in Victoria, and also to selling seafood without authorisation.” The 10 month investigation, code-named Operation Quantum, had observed the man diving for abalone, rock lobster and turbos, then selling them in Melbourne’s western suburbs. “She and the man sentenced today were supplied by a team of 10 divers, all sentenced in January, who would drive from the western suburbs of Melbourne several times each week to steal abalone, rock lobster and other shellfish from Victoria’s southwest coastline. “The divers would meet at dive sites around Warrnambool and Port Fairy, take quantities of abalone and shellfish, then return to Melbourne and sell the harvest to ring-leaders,” said Mr Parks. “Four of those ten divers were jailed for up to two months. The other six men received community correctional orders requiring them to complete between unpaid community work, bans that prohibit all fishing activity indefinitely and orders to pay between $220 and $16,500 each. Judge Pullen said the man’s offending was very serious and potentially threatened the health of consumers, which warranted a significant jail term as a strong deterrent to others. “You were masquerading as a recreational diver and benefiting financially,” Judge Pullen said. During the investigation, 12 vehicles and dive equipment were seized and most have since been forfeited. Several residential premises are still restrained under proceeds of crime legislation. Mr Parks said Fisheries Victoria’s Statewide Investigation Group, supported by regionally based Fisheries Officers, would continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised illegal fishing avenues so that we bring offenders to justice and protect Victoria’s fisheries resources for sustainable and legitimate utilisation. “We are very appreciative of the support the Victoria Police provided to us in this investigation, particularly the Criminal Proceeds Squad.