Yanchep rock lobster fisher has his licence suspended

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After the missing rock lobster pots were relocated, Operation Oakgate was triggered. Picture: DPIRD

A MAGISTRATE has suspended the rock lobster fishing licence of a Yanchep man and prohibited him from being on any vessel used for rock lobster fishing for six months.

In Joondalup Court on January 6 the 33-year-old man was also issued with fines, penalties and court costs totalling $11,014.30 for unlawfully interfering with fishing gear and selling recreationally caught lobster.

It is an offence to interfere with any fishing gear unless the person is the owner or is acting with the authority of the owner or has some other lawful excuse.

It is also illegal to sell or barter with any recreationally caught fish in Western Australia.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) compliance officers set up Operation Oakgate in late November 2020 after two commercial rock lobster pots, previously reported missing, had been relocated elsewhere.

The DPIRD officers checked the pots over a couple of weeks, noting they were being actively fished.

On December 12, they inspected a recreational fishing boat and the 33-year-old man was found with one of the pots onboard.

He admitted to pulling the second of the two commercial pots the day before.

Two other men were also implicated in using the commercial pots from the same recreational boat, owned by the Yanchep man.

Further investigation by the officers uncovered two sales by the recreational fisher of a total of 15 Western rock lobsters between December 2 and December 6 in 2020.

For this offence, he was fined $3500 and issued with a mandatory $3750 additional penalties for selling the lobsters.

In related charges heard in Joondalup Court on January 2 this year, a 29-year-old co-offender (from Kulin), faced four charges of pulling pots not marked with his gear identification and was ordered to pay $3764.30 in fines and costs.

A 30-year-old Butler man who was also a co-offender netted in Operation Oakgate was given fines and costs of $1264.30 over two charges of pulling pots that did not belong to him.

DPIRD metropolitan regional compliance acting director Mark Kleeman said the operation was a reminder that compliance officers were focussed on conducting surveillance and investigation of illegal activity.

“The powers of search and seizure our DPIRD compliance officers have are significant and helped in uncovering the illegal sales of recreationally caught lobster in this case,” he said.

“The rules are designed to protect the sustainability of our fish resources.

“The sale of recreationally caught fish undermines sustainability and potentially puts consumers at risk (with) seafood which may not meet suitable hygiene standards.”