Commercial prawners fined for illegal fishing

TWO commercial fishers who abused and threatened Department of Primary Industries (DPI) fisheries officers when being apprehended for illegal fishing in northern NSW, have been fined more than $17,000 in court, said DPI Director Fisheries Compliance, Glenn Tritton.

The men, aged 29 and 34 from Ilarwill, at Woodford Island, near Maclean, were apprehended by DPI fisheries officers, after they refused to move on from the fishing site in the Clarence River.

“The offenders participated in the monthly set pocket prawn draw for the Clarence River, and were allocated specific sites for their fishing activity for the month of September, 2011,” Mr Tritton said.

“It was alleged that the offenders positioned their spot 220 metres downstream of their allocated site, and despite being instructed by fisheries officers to move their boat and fishing gear on a number of occasions, they continued to fish in the incorrect location.

“Police and fisheries officers attended the boat and instructed them to release their catch and lift the net out of the water so the prawns could be seized.

“The fishers refused and became very abusive towards the fisheries officers and refused to remove the net from the water.”

The men were apprehended and charged with commercially fishing in a location that was not their allocated site, contravene condition of endorsement licence, abuse and threaten a fisheries officer, not remove fishing gear when directed to do so.

200 kilograms of school prawns were seized and returned to water that night.

The men faced Maclean Court last month and were fined a total of $12,500 and ordered to pay a total of $4,800 in professional costs.

“Fisheries officers are responsible for helping to share and protect our fisheries resource for future generations and it is simply not acceptable to abuse and threaten them as they go about their work,” Mr Tritton said.

“Fisheries officers have a broad range of powers including the power to seize motor vehicles, vessels, fishing gear and fish and can direct fishers to cease fishing activities.

“The ability to catch school prawns by commercial prawn set pocket net fishers in the Clarence River is determined through a monthly ballot system which is in place to promote fair access amongst the participants..

“When this long established ballot process is deliberately violated, commercial fishers are simply cheating themselves.

“This court result highlights that abuse towards fisheries officers, at any level, will not be tolerated and they will be brought before the courts.

“In the case of commercial fishers, their commercial fishing licences may be suspended or cancelled after being convicted of serious fisheries offences such as abuse, threaten or assault fisheries officers in the execution of their duties.”


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