Gus the Groper spearfished in Cronulla: Man fined

The spearfisherman who posed for a picture with a beloved blue groper he allegedly caught it has been fined $500 after a police investigation.

Residents from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire were left devastated after news of the groper being illegally speared came to light yesterday.

The 26-year-old was charged after spearing the protected species from the Oak Park rock pool in the Sydney beach suburb of Cronulla – which is a no spearfishing zone – on Saturday.

Locals were left heartbroken upon hearing that the fish, affectionately known as ‘Gus’, had been caught after living peacefully in the area for at least 40 years.

There has been some uncertainty surrounding the fate of the fish after NSW Police said that they were unable to locate the animal’s body, believing it had been “returned to the water”.

The man’s name has not been publicly released due to him not needing to appear in court.

“About 5pm on Saturday, officers from the Marine Area Command responded to reports of a blue groper fish allegedly being killed by a spearfisherman at Oak Park, Glaisher Point – approximately 2km south of Cronulla,” NSW Police told News.com.au.

“Officers spoke with a 26-year-old man at the scene. The fish was not located by police and is believed to have been returned to the water.

“Following inquiries the man was issued a penalty notice for take Groper not use rod and line or handline which carries a penalty of $500.”

The blue groper, known for being non-aggressive and inquisitive, has been the official fish of New South Wales since 1996 and is protected by law from spearfishing and commercial enterprise.

A post on a local Facebook page garnered a heated reaction from concerned locals calling for harsher penalties and more community education.

“Omg what an a**hole I’ve been trying to find that groper for ages. and now I’ll never get to see him. I hope this guy gets a massive fine,” one person wrote.

“So angry at this,” another wrote. “Seriously who does that for fun? Gus deserved to live. he was also protected.”

“That poor beautiful fish,” a third wrote.

“My husband is an ex-scuba diver and we both still snorkel. To have that amazing creature to swim with, now gone is beyond belief.”

Local woman Tenielle Piek told news.com.au that the “gorgeous bright blue fish” is well-known to other divers and swimmers in the area.

“Blue gropers are the ‘Labradors of the Sea’,” she said. “They are tame and curious creatures, making them extremely vulnerable to spearfishing.”

Ms Piek said she witnessed the distressing incident on Saturday.

“The man pulled the groper out of the water,” she said.

“Locals were shocked and outraged … My mother was the first person to approach the man requesting to take his photo. He smiled and showed off his killing without realising it was a protected species and could be fined up to $11,000 for spearing a blue groper.”

Ms Piek says she fears for future generations.

“We genuinely fear our children will not get to experience these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat at the shores of Cronulla,” she said.

This isn’t the first such incident. In May, a different man was pictured killing a blue groper at Hungry Point in the Sutherland Shire.

News.com.au understands that The Department of Primary Industries ramped up its response with additional signage after the May incident, though locals claim it has done little.

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