HOOK LINE & STINKER
67yo fisherman fined after stashing Spanish mackerel fillets in boat’s toilet
EXCLUSIVE: A RECREATIONAL fisherman from Glenella has copped a hefty fine after he was caught with a haul of restricted fish stashed in a vessel’s toilet.
Joseph Thomas Elrott, 67, was found in possession of 18 Spanish mackerel, in total, in various locations on his boat – 15 above the bag limit.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district officer Craig Bambling said his officers had been patrolling at Mackay Marina on August 1 last year when they made the curious find.
Officers inspected Elrott’s fishing vessel, which had three people aboard.
“Fisheries officers found nine filleted Spanish mackerel, one filleted sailfish and one whole Spanish mackerel in an ice box attached to the vessel,” Mr Bambling said.
“Five large plastic bags
containing a total of 17 whole Spanish mackerel fillets were found in a concealed compartment under the floor ...
“Four large plastic bags containing 11 whole Spanish mackerel fillets were also found in another concealed compartment in the floor of the vessel’s toilet. A total of 24 Spanish mackerel were on board ... ”
Under the state’s Fisheries Act 1994, the possession limit for Spanish mackerel is only three per person. Mr Elrott was deemed to be in possession of
18 of the mackerel.
He was sentenced on two offences: Unlawfully taking regulated fish and obstructing a Fisheries inspector.
When asked what constituted the obstruction, Mr Bambling said it was because the mackerel had been “kept in two concealed compartments”.
Additionally, Mr Bambling said Mr Elrott did not admit “on four separate occasions about the existence of these compartments and the regulated fish therein”, after an initial search and questioning.
On Tuesday, Mackay Magistrates Court fined Mr Elrott
$4000 for possessing 15 mackerel too many and $1500 for obstructing the officer.
As the number of commercial fishers declines in the region, those involved in the industry called for tougher penalties against recreational anglers exceeding bag limits.
A commercial angler of 30 years feels those in the industry face much greater scrutiny from Fisheries than the average recreational fisher.
“There was a few hundred boats on the water today and only two commercial boats,” the 48-year-old said Thursday.
“You see some out there on a daily basis. They outnumber us a thousand to one. We’re struggling with these rules and regulations, (the goverment) knows our every movement. It feels totally unregulated in the recreational sense.
“Recreational bag limits are already generous and we just feel the fines aren’t as excessive on the recreational side.”
The fisherman said he’s tired of sitting by as the commercial industry is tied up in neverending government reform while recreational breaches generally fall by the wayside.
“We’re just sort of feeling up against the wall,” he explained.
Mackay Reef Fish Supplies owner David Caracciolo, 54, who has overseen about 7 or 8 commercial vessels, said there was always some degree of argy bargy between the industry and recreational anglers.
“The commercial guys are much easier to police. They’ve got infrastructure, gear. They can’t just pack up and disappear. And there’s certainly not as many of them,” he said.
“The compliance, when it comes down to the recreational sector, the industry feels is totally out of whack. The fines, compared to the recreational and commercial sector. It just doesn’t balance up.”
Mr Caracciolo pointed out the prevalence of recreational black market mackerel and mud crab sales in Queensland.
To report unlawful fishing, call the 24 hour toll-free Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.
BIT FISHY: The Spanish mackerel filets were found stashed away in the boat’s toilet compartment by a Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officer. Only three mackerel per person are allowed to be kept in Queensland.