Imprisonment for catching abalone?

Everyone knows that Australian abalone is fresh and delicious.  Not only that we like to eat abalone, but also like to catch the abalones. But do you know there are regulations in Victoria relating to the possession and taking of abalones?


In Victoria, all people under the age of 18, over 70, or those exempted by the Victorian Fisheries Authority may not need to apply for a Recreational Fishing Licence, but all other people need to apply to the Victorian Fisheries Authority for a Recreational Fishing Licence before they could take abalone.


You may wish to ask “Can I borrow and use my friend’s Recreational Fishing Licence?” We hereby emphasise:

  • This licence cannot be lent or transferred to others;
  • This licence only applies to the state where the application is made, and is not able to be used in other states. For example, the Victoria fishing licence cannot be used for fishing in New South Wales;
  • The licence has an expiry date. The holder of the licence needs to remember to check the licence validity period regularly. If the licence has expired, then the holder cannot use it.

You can apply for the licence and obtain more relevant information in the official website of Victorian Fisheries Authority at:


The most common abalones in Australia are blacklip and greenlip abalones. You may wish to pay attention to the following when taking abalones:

  • Take abalone in different Victorian waters need to comply with different minimum legal size requirements, so don’t forget to bring a measuring device with you, you can call 136 186 to obtain a measuring device designed for measuring abalone;
  • You can only use a blunt instrument when taking abalone, and cannot use knives, screwdrivers or sharp instruments;
  • You cannot shuck abalone in the Victorian waters, you may only shuck abalone at the place of consumption;
  • You can only take abalone between sunrise and sunset.   


The minimum legal size of abalone that you can take depends on the area of the Victorian waters of the abalone. In summary:

For greenlip abalones: the minimum legal size of abalone that can be taken is not less than 13cm except for Port Philip Bay where no greenlip abalone can be taken;

For abalones other than greenlip:

  • Port Philip Bay: the minimum legal size of abalone that can be taken is not less than 10 cm;
  • Mallacoota airport area, as well as the area between Lorne and Lakes Entrance, excluding Port Philip Bay: the minimum legal size of abalone that can be taken is not less than 11cm;
  • The area between the Mouth of the Hopkins River and Lorne, as well as the area on the right side of Lakes Entrance, excluding the Mallacoota airport area: the minimum legal size of abalone that can be taken is not less than 12cm;
  • On the left side of the Mouth of the Hopkins River: the minimum legal size of abalone that can be taken is not less than 13cm.


Regardless of whether the abalone shell is complete or damaged, the abalone must be measured at the widest part of the shell. If it is smaller than the minimum legal size then it must be returned to where it is taken.


Besides the minimum legal size requirement, there are two other limits: bag limit and possession limit.

The bag limit for Victorian waters other than prohibited area is 5 abalones (of which greenlip abalones cannot be more than 2). Only Port Phillip Bay has a bag limit of 5 blacklip abalones (no green abalones can be taken). This limit is the limit of the number of abalones that can be taken by each person diving for abalone every day.

There is also a statewide possession limit of 10 abalones, of which greenlip abalones cannot be more than 4. This limit is the limit of the number of abalones that a person can possess at any one time anywhere in Victoria including your home.


Prohibited area includes:

  • waters less than 2m deep (the intertidal zone);
  • Marine National Parks and Sanctuaries.

The intertidal zone is defined as the area starting at the maximum high-water mark to a point where the water is 2m deep at any time.

In other words, you must dive at least 2 metres below the water in order to take abalone.

Moreover, in the central Victorian waters (that is, the distance from Aire River to Arch Rock, including Port Phillip Bay), it is prohibited to take abalone except for the following nominated open days every year:

  • Every Saturday and Sunday between 16 November and 30 April the following year inclusive;
  • Every declared public holiday in Victoria between 16 November and 30 April the following year;
  • 25 December through to the second Sunday in January the following year inclusive.


Case example:

The Victorian Fisheries Officers stopped two men at Waratah Bay, 185 kilometres from Melbourne CBD.


The two men have taken 17 abalones after diving in the nearby waters and have removed the abalone meat from the shells on the reefs beside the waters. The two men were approached by the officers after leaving the bay, but the two men did not stop and instead they turned around and accelerated their escape. On the way, they have hidden one of their bags of abalone, bicycles and two wetsuits in the bush, then have thrown the second bag of abalone into the water, and have hidden themselves in the bush. A few hours later, the two were intercepted by the police when returning to their car.


The two pleaded guilty in court for obstruction of Fisheries Officers, failing to obey a direction to stop a vehicle, taking more than twice the catch limit for abalone and shucking abalone. The Magistrate imposed a fine of $12,500.00 without imprisonment on the basis that the two pleaded guilty to the charges.   

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