Two Harrington men fined over illegal eastern rock lobster haul in Newcastle

Two men have been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in fines after being found guilty of trafficking eastern rock lobsters in Newcastle earlier this year.

Fisheries officers apprehended a 56 year-old man and a 25 year-old man, both from Harrington, in the car park of a fast food restaurant in Wickham on February 23. 

Department of Primary Industries acting director fisheries compliance, Tony Chen, said fisheries officers followed the 56-year-old man’s trawler into Newcastle Harbour.

“The 25 year-old man was found to be in possession of 40 eastern rock lobsters, two of them being oversized,” Mr Chen said.

“NSW DPI believed the lobsters, worth around $3800 on the market, were taken illegally by use of an otter trawl (prawn) net from the 56 year-old man’s offshore prawn trawler.

The men were charged with offences including trafficking lobsters, aggravated possession of lobsters, take eastern rock lobsters for sale when not the holder of an endorsed commercial fishing licence, and attempt to sell lobster without a tag attached.

The men were found guilty at Newcastle Local Court earlier this month. 

The 56 year-old was fined $14,000 and ordered to pay an additional penalty of $22,000 relating to the market value of the catch. He was also placed on a two year good behaviour bond and his vehicle was forfeited to the Crown.

The 25 year-old man was placed on a 12 month good behaviour bond and fined $6000.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair described the outcome as a fantastic result.

“This is a big win for our hard working fisheries officers, who day in and day out do all they can to put a stop to illegal fishing,” Mr Blair said.

“The court results reflect the seriousness of the offences and the importance of protecting the small but valuable share managed lobster fishery.”

“Rules are in place with a strict total allowable commercial catch quota system accessible only by fishers endorsed in the fishery.”

Individual lobsters must be tagged with numbered tags provided by DPI if legally taken for sale.

Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to contact their local DPI fisheries office, call the Fisher Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities online. For more information visit the DPI website.