Black jewfish swim bladder bust

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Black jewfish are a popular Top End sport fish. Image: Peter Zeroni

TWO men are set to face court in Darwin after allegedly being found in possession of black jewfish swim bladders.

Under the Northern Territory's new fisheries regulations, swim bladders must not be removed from fish on the water unless they are disposed of immediately.

In recent years there has been a growing black market trade for black jewfish swim bladders, considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in countries such as China.

"There is an illegal airbag market where the airbags are trading at around $1,000 per kilogram," NT Water Police senior constable Sean Stanley told ABC news.

Senior Constable Stanley said the illegal trade had become his units' "number one enforcement issue".

The two men, aged 29 and 31, were apprehended during an enforcement patrol of the Charles Point area near Darwin.

The case is the first of its kind in the NT since fisheries regulations were amended last year, and the pair face maximum fines of up to $6,200.

Senior Constable Stanley said black jewfish had been almost wiped out in some locations overseas and the species was at risk of being overfished in the NT.

"There is an area in the Gulf of Mexico which was targeted by illegal poachers in relation to these airbags, and now you can't catch a jewfish there," Stanley said.

"We need to protect our fish stocks here, especially black jewfish, because I believe we have the best fishing in the world." He said.

NT Seafood Council CEO Katherine Winchester said the Water Police crackdown and promise to adopt a "zero tolerance" approach to the offence would hopefully curb the illegal trade.

"As black jewfish are an at risk species it is critical to ensure the right balance of regulation and enforcement resources are in place," Winchester said.

"We encourage people to report any suspicious or suspected illegal activity regarding swim bladders, either directly to the FishWatch hotline (1800 891 136) or via the NT Fishing Mate app."

Source: ABC

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