Rock lobster fisher fined for tarspot removal

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A 44-year-old Two Rocks man was fined in the Moora Court on Wednesday after he was found to have removed tarspot from western rock lobsters. Picture: DPIRD

COMMERCIAL and recreational fishers are being reminded that tarspot on a western rock lobster means it is totally protected as it is a sign female lobsters are ready to spawn.

Last week the Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) said Stephen Small of Two Rocks was ordered to pay $76,766 in fines, penalties and court costs relating to charges of taking totally protected fish and mutilation of 224 lobsters, by removing tarspot with the intention of preventing determination of whether or not a fish was protected.

Small, who did not appear in the Moora Court on Wednesday, October 2 is a commercial fisherman operating out of Leeman.

In a statement the department said lobsters caught that showed tarspot must be returned to the water, so the lobster could release sperm from the tarspot to help fertilise her eggs.

The sustainability of the fishery depends on maximizing the success of the breeding stock,’’ the statement said.

“The court heard that on September 20,  2017 the accused had returned to Leeman, when Fisheries officers inspected the vessel for which he was the master and noticed pieces of what they believed to be tarspot pieces on the boat’s deck and in the holds.

“Tarspot on female lobsters is often noticeable during late winter and spring and is a putty-like black mass found between the back legs on the underside of breeding female lobsters.

“After finding the suspected tarspot, they inspected the consignment of 438 lobster caught on board the vessel that day and found that the tarspot of 224 of the lobsters had been removed.

“The court was told a DPIRD fisheries scientist confirmed results of the inspection the next day.’’

DPIRD supervising fisheries and marine officer Ray Worrall, who is based at Jurien Bay, said the fines and penalties handed down demonstrated the seriousness of the matters the magistrate dealt with.

“Fines like this send a strong deterrent message to commercial and recreational fishers and reiterate to the community that DPIRD takes seriously the need for laws to protect the sustainability of our iconic western rock lobster,” he said.

“I remind all commercial and recreational fishers that female lobsters carrying tarspot or eggs are totally protected and must be immediately returned to the water before another pot is pulled, or, in the case of a diver, before another lobster can be caught.”

You can call FishWatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 815 507 to report any suspected illegal fishing activity.