Cray fish­er­man pays heavy price

Weekend Courier - - Front Page -

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.

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