Cray fisherman pays heavy price
A FLY-IN fly-out worker who interfered with commercial rock lobster pots and attached his own floats to them has been fined $10,000 and had his boat seized.
Jason Keith Knowler pleaded guilty in his absence at Rockingham Magistrates Court to four charges of interfering with nets or traps used for fishing.
The Fsheries prosecutor said the offences happened on December 14, 2016.
At 4.30am on that date Knowler launched a boat, a red fibreglass surf-rider boat called ‘Red Baron’, at the Bent Street boat ramp and headed for Coventry Reef.
While there, Knowler hauled in four commercial rock lobster pots and took an unknown number of rock lobster from those pots.
The four pots were later returned to the owner, a second-generation commercial rock lobster fisherman based out of Mandurah.
The prosecutor handed a victim impact statement from the fisherman involved, describing the significant financial loss it had on him and his family business.
The prosecutor called for the boat and associated equipment – trailer, GPS plotter, Nav-man tracker, ropes and floats be forfeited – and for Knowler to be disqualified from holding a commercial rock lobster licence and be fined.
The prosecutor said there was a need for personal and general deterrence as fishing for rock lobster required an element of trust when pots were set.
“It is the most valuable single species fishery in Australia,” the prosecutor said.
“It has placed additional burden and costs on the commercial fisher; it is a serious offence and I call for seizure of the boat and fines as a significant deterrent to the accused and the general community.”
Magistrate Richard Hutson said the offences were deplorable.
“The offending itself is quite despicable as he would have been aware of the impact of his behaviour; easy to commit, hard to monitor or detect and would have persisted if not for Fisheries officers,” he said.
“It is a limited resource and needs to be managed going forward.
“A clear message needs to be sent for both personal and general deterrence.
“It also needs to show support to the family affected by Mr Knowles offending.”
Mr Hutson made an order for seizure of the boat with 90hp outboard and associated trailer, GPS, Nav-man and ropes and floats.
He received a global fine of $10,000 and his licence was suspended for 12 months.