18 Jul 2018
Two men have been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines after being found guilty of illegally trafficking eastern rock lobsters in Newcastle earlier this year, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Acting Director Fisheries Compliance, Tony Chen, said today.
Mr Chen said NSW DPI Fisheries Officers from the Hunter District and the Statewide Operations and Investigations Group had the two men, a 56 year-old man from Harrington, and a 25 year-old man from Harrington, under surveillance for some time during ‘Operation Antennae’ before apprehending the men on February 23.
“The 25 year-old man was apprehended in the car park of a fast food restaurant in Wickham after being followed by fisheries officers from the 56 year-old man’s trawler in Newcastle Harbour. The 25 year-old man was found to be in possession of 40 eastern rock lobsters, two of them being oversized,” Mr Chen said.
“The lobsters were seized as well as the vehicle that they were being transported in, a 2013 Ford Ranger valued at $15,000.
“NSW DPI believed the lobsters, worth around $3800 on the market, were taken illegally by use of an otter trawl (prawn) net from the 56 year-old man’s offshore prawn trawler.
“The men were charged with a range of offences including trafficking lobsters, aggravated possession of lobsters, take eastern rock lobsters for sale when not the holder of an duly endorsed commercial fishing licence, and attempt to sell lobster without a tag attached.”
The men were found guilty at Newcastle Local Court earlier this month, with the 56 year-old man issued with $14,000 in penalties, ordered to pay an additional penalty of $22,000 relating to the market value of the catch, as well as placed on a 2 year good behaviour bond while his vehicle was forfeited to the Crown. The 25 year-old man was placed on a 12 month good behaviour bond plus issued with $6000 in penalties.
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the court outcome is a fantastic result.
“This is a big win for our hard working fisheries officers, who day in and day out do all they can to put a stop to illegal fishing,” Mr Blair said.
“The court results reflect the seriousness of the offences and the importance of protecting the small but valuable share managed lobster fishery.
“Rules are in place with a strict total allowable commercial catch quota system accessible only by fishers endorsed in the fishery. Individual lobsters must be tagged with numbered tags provided by DPI if legally taken for sale.
“NSW DPI fisheries officers work tirelessly every day to unveil illegal fishing which threatens legitimate markets and economic development and the hard work of all honest fishers.”
Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local DPI fisheries office, call the Fisher Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online. For more information visit the DPI website.
Media contact: Laura Hutton 0427 652 088