Posted by: The ocean update | June 12, 2015

Fishers fined for illegal haul of 3,200 shark fins (Australia)

A fisheries officer looks over shark fins, nets and mud crabs seized during a raid on a Maryborough fishing shack. Supplied : QBFP

A fisheries officer looks over shark fins, nets and mud crabs seized during a raid on a Maryborough fishing shack. Supplied : QBFP

June 12th, 2015. A haul of more than 3,200 illegal shark fins, most likely destined for the black market, has landed three unlicensed recreational fishers with fines of more than $15,000.

The trio were caught while on a fishing holiday in the Sandy Straits near Maryborough in Queensland last year.They were found guilty in the Maryborough Magistrates Court this week of a range of fisheries offences including possession of shark fins, undersized mud crabs, unmarked crab pots, and commercial fishing nets.

The seizure included a range of live mud crabs, crab carapaces, bodies and claws, and illegal crab pots and non-compliant fishing nets.

One of the men, from Gympie, was fined $7,750 for the fins taken from 641 different sharks as well as mud crabs, unmarked crab pots, and illegal nets, while his two friends were fined $3,750 each for mud crabs and unmarked pots.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol district manager, Greg Bowness, said the men were caught after a tip off from the public.

“We were acting on information received from a member of the public in relation to the activities of certain individuals in that southern Sandy Straits area,” he said.

“This is an excellent result in a case as extremely concerning with some people that had some complete disregard for our fisheries resources,”

Shark finning is illegal for recreational fishers in Queensland to protect breeding adults, though species other than great whites, grey nurses, sawfish, and speartooth can be legally caught.

But the limit is one shark under 1.5m per person, and Mr Bowness said this was the largest haul of shark fin he had ever seen.

“This was a substantial amount of shark fin in the possession of this particular fisher and it’s certainly an area of concern that he had those.”

He said a range of species had been targeted in the catch.

“[It’s concerning] because of the volume of shark fins and as indicated by the results, the other unlawful product and the unlawful apparatus that was found in the defendants’ possession,” he said.

The shark fin was most likely destined for sale on the black market, where it can sell for between $10 and $100 per kilogram.

It appeared the illegal practices had been going on for some time, but Mr Bowness said it was an isolated case.

“There had been some information that these practices were fairly prevalent and common,” he said

“In relation to the shark fins and this type of fishing operation, I would suggest it’s fairly well a one-off.”

But he said there had been a trend in finding illegal activities around crabbing, and commercial scale nets.

“The other concerning fact is the other unlawful product and apparatus that was seized at the time,” he said.

“There is a bit of a trend to locating those sorts unlawful activities.”

Recreational fishers can use seine or bait nets and cast nets in tidal waters, but it must be no longer than 16 metres, with a mesh size no greater than 28 millimetres. Cast nets are restricted to 3.7 metres in length.

Mr Bowness said illegal fishers impacted not only on the health of the fishery, but also on recreational and commercial operators.

“Possession limits are in place so there’s an equal share of fisheries resources across the different sectors,” he said.

“There’s a varied impact.

“One is in the sustainability of the fish stocks, the other is in relation to the opportunity for all people to lawfully engage in their fishing practices.”

He said it was vital people contact the Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116 to report and suspected illegal catches.

“We rely heavily on members of the public and industry to provide us with information so that we can better target our compliance activities to those people that are flagrantly flouting the law.”

Commercial fishers fear impact on reputation

Queensland Seafood Industry Association president, Karen Collard, said she was glad to see people had been caught if they were illegally fishing.

“Anybody that is abusing the resource, anybody that is taking the resource when they are not entitled to it, needs to be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she said.

Although the three men are not commercial fishers, Ms Collard said their crime will have a negative impact on how the community perceives the industry.

“Just the fact that you say ‘shark fin,’ everybody immediately thinks ‘commercial fishing,” she said.

“Commercial fishers are legally allowed to take shark fin.

“There are certain percentages that we need to bring home in relation to the flesh, because that (flesh) is a supply of flake to the commercial market.”

Commercial fishers who are licensed to take shark fin are only allowed to do so if the flesh from the body of the shark, or the ‘barrel,’ is also being used.

Ms Collard said some commercial fishers who legally take shark fin have suggested to her a good way to enforce high standards would be if law required fishers to leave the fins attached to the body when they bring it back to port, to prove they are not simply removing the fin and dumping the shark back in the ocean.

Some of the shark fins seized during a raid on a Maryborough fishing shack. Supplied : QBFP

Some of the shark fins seized during a raid on a Maryborough fishing shack. Supplied : QBFP

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