67yo fish­er­man fined af­ter stash­ing Span­ish mack­erel fil­lets in boat’s toi­let

Daily Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - LUKE MORTIMER luke.mortimer@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

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.

Com­mer­cial back­lash

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.

Pho­tos: Fish­eries Queens­land

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.

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