Magistrate issues significant fines and penalties in Derby mud crab case

Photo: DPIRD
Photo: DPIRD

A Derby man has lost his recreational fishing licence for six months and been ordered to pay fines, penalties and costs of $8,300 for offences that occurred last December.

Compliance officers from the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) attempted to stop the man to inspect the boat he was towing, but he refused and continued to drive around Derby with the officers following. The slow-speed pursuit continued for nearly an hour before police intervened.

On Wednesday, November 16, Derby court was told the inspection should have been straightforward but became unnecessarily difficult due to the offender's behaviour.

On inspection of the vessel, officers located 19 mud crab pieces and a fish trap. The daily bag limit for mud crabs is five and they must be landed whole by fishers.

A minimum size limit of 150 mm (carapace width) is required to legally take green mud crabs, the minimum size limit for brown mud crabs 120 mm.

In addition to the fines, costs and licence suspension, a forfeiture order was granted for the drop nets, trap and mud crab pieces found on the man's 4.2-metre aluminium open boat. The vessel was also seized in December last year, but a forfeiture order was not granted.

The court heard the 70-year-old man had been without his boat for 11 months and during that time had reflected on his behaviour and acknowledged he was in the wrong. The magistrate formally warned him that if anything like this happened again, it was highly likely he would lose his boat and licence permanently.

DPIRD's Supervising Fisheries and Marine Officer in Broome Matthew Gogoll said the court decision sent a clear message to mud crab fishers in WA's north about following the rules to ensure the sustainability of the mud crab resource.

"In this case evading the officers also added $2,000 to the court bill for the offender," Mr Gogoll said. "The take-away message is do not try to evade compliance officers. Individuals can face fines of up to $10,000 for refusing to or failing to comply with a requirement or direction.

"This case is also a reminder that mud crabs must be landed whole, so they can be measured by compliance officers and there are rules around how mud crabs can be taken."

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