Search and seizure powers of WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) compliance officers are extensive and consequential, as a fisher found in a Geraldton Court on Monday, August 30.
The 51-year-old man was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, a mandatory additional penalty of $8,580 and costs of $1,467.70 – in all adding up to $12,047.70.
A Facebook post in June last year showed 46 baldchin gropers on the deck of the man’s vessel not only led to the big fine, but the magistrate also granted an application by the department for the offender’s recreational fishing from boat licence to be suspended for three months.
On Monday, the court heard the vessel, for which the Geraldton man was the master, had departed Batavia Marina bound for the Abrolhos Islands on May 30 last year.
On the morning of June 1 that same year, the officers observed the vessel at the Abrolhos, near Easter Group.
Geraldton Court was also told that later in the day at approximately 14:00 local time an image of the baldchin gropers, laid out on the rear deck of the vessel, had been taken on an mobile phone owned by the offender.
In the West Coast Region, the total possession limit is two-day’s bag limit of whole demersal fish per person. As there were six people on board the vessel, the allowed possession limit was 24 demersal fish.
Affectionately known as “baldies,” this fish species is only found in Western Australian waters. They are slow-growing demersals and take five to seven years to reach 40 centimetres in length.
As a result, baldchin groper stocks are at risk from sustained overfishing.
Mick Kelly, DPIRD’s Director Regional Compliance in the Midwest, said it was shocking there was nearly double the allowable limit of demersal fish in the photo on the social media post.
“I often say DPIRD compliance officers are out and about, where and when you least expect them and being on social media bragging about an illegal catch doesn’t mean you are out of sight,” Mr Kelly said.
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