“Pathetic” and “not harsh enough” sum up the comments on social media in response to the $500 fine issued by police to the man caught spearfishing a blue groper at a Cronulla beach on Saturday, December 30.

The large groper, who was named “Gus” by locals, was known for swimming in the area for the last 40 years. Diver Tenille Piek told The Leader that blue gropers are known for their gentle nature, like “labradors of the sea,” she said.

A man in a wetsuit was seen carrying a spear gun and the blue groper at Oak Park Beach, Cronulla. Police launched an investigation and issued a penalty notice for a $500 fine. It’s believed Gus was returned to the water after he was killed.

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Comments on social media have lit up since news broke of the punishment, which people have called “disgusting”, “a joke” and “miniscule”. “Needs to be another zero on that fine,” wrote Rob Burke. “What a c…” said Michael Webber. “So so outrageous,” said Greens MP Cate Faehrmann on Instagram.

In New South Wales, gropers are protected from commercial fishing and spearfishing. Catching gropers by line fishing is permitted but limited to two catches per day and they must be over a certain size. The penalties for illegal fishing range from $500 to $22,000 or six months in jail.