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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Tuesday 15 December 2020

Big fines in Perth court for taking and mutilating 287 protected lobsters

​The master of a commercial fishing vessel will have to pay more than $130,600 and his deckhand more than $22,660 in fines, penalties and court costs, after a Perth Magistrate passed sentence on the men over offences related to removing tarspot from 287 rock lobsters.

Tarspot on a western rock lobster, which is a sign that a female lobster is ready to spawn, makes that lobster totally protected under Western Australia’s fisheries laws. Any fisher that catches a lobster showing tarspot must return it to the water immediately, so it can continue its breeding cycle and fertilise her eggs by releasing sperm from the tarspot.

Compliance officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) seized 290 lobsters from the vessel master’s catch in September 2017 and a subsequent examination by departmental scientists concluded that 287 of the lobsters had mated in that year and showed signs tarspot had been present.

The 51-year-old commercial fishing vessel master from Spearwood did not appear in court on Wednesday (9 December) when sentencing took place. The master received a fine of $10,700 over the offences related to taking totally protected lobsters and removing tarspot. The master’s mandatory penalty for the 287 lobsters involved is $118, 325. With costs of $1,661.40 added that brings his total for his offences to $130,686.90.

For the 43-year-old deckhand from Yangebup who did appear in court, he will have to pay $22,673.90; made up of $1,700 for his role in catching the 287 lobsters in question that represent 60 percent of the vessel’s catch and $9,000 for removing tarspot plus a mandatory penalty of $11,832.50. He also had commercial fishing licence suspended for 12 months.

DPIRD’s Manager Regional Compliance Metro, Todd A’Vard said the fines and penalties handed down for the serious offences in this case should act as a significant deterrent for both commercial and recreational fishers alike.

“The taking of breeding female lobsters, during the reproductive cycle, has the potential to seriously undermine fish stocks because in simple terms it removes the lobster that contribute to the future of the fishery,” Mr A’Vard said.

“These types of offences, where there’s deception by removing tarspot, are very difficult to both detect and prosecute, but the big fines and penalties handed out to these men will provide a general deterrent that will make most fishers think twice. It’s also a reminder that our fisheries compliance officers have the skill and wide powers necessary to check on and, if necessary, further investigate fishers.”

We urge anyone who suspects, or is aware of illegal fishing activity, to report what they know to FishWatch on 1800 815 507 so that DPIRD compliance officers can follow up.

Last modified: 15/12/2020 3:40 PM

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