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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Friday 31 July 2020

Big fines in Carnarvon for illegally netted haul including endangered sawfish

Illegal use of netting to fish is a big issue because nets don’t discriminate.

Carnarvon Magistrates Court heard this week that WA police apprehended four men in April this year on the southern bank of the Gascoyne River, west of the water treatment facility on Babbage Island Road.

The local detectives came across the sorry sight of two sawfish and 12 undersize yellowfin bream stuffed in an esky. Because sawfish are critically endangered and the bream were all less than the legal size of 300mm all of these fish are categorised as totally protected.

A further 19 mullet and three big eye mullet were also in the esky the men had been using.

Carnarvon detectives called in DPIRD officers when they found the sawfish

Police held the offenders until fisheries compliance officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) arrived to take over the case, which has resulted in court orders for the Carnarvon men aged between 22 and 54 to each pay $10,875.90 in fines, mandatory penalties and court costs. The DPIRD officers attempted to release the sawfish, however they were both in poor condition when returned to the water.

In commenting on the endangered species, DPIRD Research Scientist Dr Alastair Harry believes compliance and regulations are essential to conserve sawfish for future generations. 

“Sawfish are among the most imperilled families of marine fishes, due to targeted and incidental capture for their meat and fins and for trophy hunting of their rostrum,” Dr Harry said.

In other illegal net fishing cases before Carnarvon Court this week, which were uncovered as part of the ongoing Operation Eastburn, targeting illegal fishing in the Gascoyne delta region, the magistrate issued fines, penalties and costs ranging from $1,445.90 each for a group of three offenders to $2,365.90 each for two other men involved in another separate case.

Senior fisheries compliance officer for DPIRD in the Carnarvon District, Matt Clarke said Operation Eastburn had been very successful in uncovering illegal netting activity and helping to raise community assistance to pin point where offenders have been operating.
“We also thank the local Carnarvon District Police for their assistance in the sawfish case as the interagency collaboration helps to strengthen efforts against illegal activity like this.”

In a separate case, before the court, dealing with an illegal haul of trochus and turban shells, a 48 year-old Carnarvon man was ordered to pay $6,885.90 for the fine, mandatory penalty and court costs for his offence after fishing at a reef location on the Quobba coast.

  The officers were able to return the excess shellfish to the water

The mixed daily bag limit for trochus and turban shells is 10. DPIRD officers found the accused had filled two white buckets and a single white bag with a total of 460 turban shells and 108 trochus shells. The offender was 54 times in excess of the limit and had 106 undersize trochus. 

Last modified: 31/07/2020 4:57 PM

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