Pro fisherman loses his boat over illegal catch
A COFFS Harbour-based professional fisherman, who was caught red handed with an illegal rock lobster catch, has been fined almost $40,000 in court and ordered to surrender his fishing boat to the Crown.
The 28-year-old commercial lobster fisher was caught with 77 eastern rock lobsters taken from ocean waters adjacent to Wooli on December 22, last year, the Grafton Local Court heard.
He pleaded guilty to more than 30 charges, and appeared in court along with a second Coffs Harbour man, 40, who made the pick-up of the illegal catch.
Department of Primary Industries Director of Fisheries Compliance Glenn Tritton said the sentence handed down in this case was one of the heaviest penalties handed down for a fisheries offence in New South Wales.
"Fisheries officers undertook a covert operation in the lead up to Christmas last year targeting the theft of rock lobsters on the NSW north coast," Mr Tritton said.
"Fisheries officers then observed the fisher transfer the rock lobsters to a waiting car driven by a second man.
"Both men were apprehended and it was found that of the 77 lobsters seized, 18 were over the maximum size of 18 cm and one lobster was carrying eggs.
"At the time of apprehension it was also found the commercial fisher had less than 5 kg of his fishing quota left and had been allegedly misreporting his catch and falsifying his log sheets for a number of months.
"Further investigations by fisheries officers found that the commercial fisher had exceeded his annual quota of eastern rock lobsters by 426 kg, which included the 121 kg he caught on the day of his apprehension.
"It is believed the lobsters were destined to be sold on the black market."
Mr Tritton said fisheries officers will continue to target illegal lobster activity throughout the State.
"We will bring people found stealing these prized species before the courts to face tough penalties including gaol sentences and large fines."
Information concerning illegal lobster activity can be reported to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536.
Summary of the court case
- The 28-year-old commercial fisher from Coffs Harbour pleaded guilty to more than 30 charges including contravention of quota, possess prohibited size fish, possess more than maximum quantity of fish, providing false or misleading information and take rock lobster carrying ova externally.
- He was fined a total of $34,900 along with court professional costs exceeding $2,300.
- He also received a three year good behaviour bond and had his licensed fishing boat forfeited.
- The second man, a 40 year old man from Coffs Harbour, who was found driving the pick-up vehicle containing the illegal catch of lobsters also appeared in Grafton Local Court and pleaded guilty to a number of charges including possess prohibited sized fish, possess more than maximum quantity of fish and take rock lobster carrying ova externally.
- He was fined $5,500 plus ordered to pay professional costs exceeding $1,000.