THREE crabbers have been fined a total of $20,650 and had their fishing boat, motor, trailer and crab pots seized after they were caught with a stash of undersized and female concealed crabs.
The three were found in possession of 58 illegal crabs stored in a hidden compartment in the floor of their vessel during an interception by a Queensland Boating and Fisheries patrol near Victoria Point last September.
Fisheries officer James Hohenhaus said the crabbers had been under extensive surveillance before officers stepped in.
“We watched the fishers for a number of hours from different locations and could see all the fishers pulling up and checking crab pots,” Mr Hohenhaus said.
“On inspection, however, we only found five mud crabs, one legal bream and a number of crab pots, and were concerned that the floor of the vessel had been modified.
“The fishers were given a written notice to deliver the vessel to the Redlands QBFP station for further inspection.
“During the inspection, officers used telescopic cameras and found a hidden compartment under the floor of the vessel.
“We proceeded to complete a full inspection of the boat and found 37 bags in the secret compartment containing 69 live mud crabs – 24 undersized male mud crabs, 34 female mud crabs and 11 legal male mud crabs.
“We seized the entire catch and returned all crabs alive to the water.”
Mr Hohenhaus said Queenslanders love their crabs and rules are in place to protect them.
“The rules around the number, age and type of crabs that can be taken are very clear and pleading ignorance is no defence,” he said.
“In handing down the penalty, the Magistrate considered that the defendants’ activities appeared to be a very sophisticated operation in which they concealed crabs.
“All fishers pleaded guilty in the Redlands Magistrates Court and were charged with unlawful possession of undersized and female mud crabs.
“One of the defendants was also charged with obstruction and two defendants were charged with making false and misleading statements about being asleep on the boat.
“This should serve as a big warning to anyone involved in illegal crabbing and modifying vessels to create hidden compartments for their catch.”
Mr Hohenhaus said they would like to thank those people who provided information to QBFP which greatly assisted in the final apprehension.
If you suspect illegal fishing, whether you see it in person or online, report it to the Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.
Do not approach the people involved, as this can compromise an investigation.
For more information on Queensland fishing regulations, visit www.fisheries.qld.gov.au, call 13 25 23 or download the free Qld Fishing app from Apple and Google app stores.
You can follow Fisheries Queensland on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@FisheriesQld).