Fishermen locked up for illegal Gladstone catch
VIETNAMESE fishermen were dealt their punishments after they were sprung poaching sea cucumbers off Gladstone's shore.
The 15 Vietnamese fishers learned the harsh reality behind attempting to plunder our marine resources when they were found guilty for illegal fishing in Australian waters.
The crew and vessel were apprehended on February 15 in Gladstone for illegally fishing near Saumarez Reef, approximately 170 nautical miles north east of our shore.
Fourteen crew members each received a four month suspended jail sentence and a three year good behaviour bond, while the master received a seven month suspended sentence in addition to the good behaviour bond.
Their vessel has been confiscated and destroyed.
The Vietnamese crew were caught at Saumarez Reef with a second vessel with 14 crew on board. The crewmen from the other vessel were sentenced in a Darwin court late last week for illegal fishing.
The two vessels were caught with 13 tonnes of sea cucumbers, which could fetch a value of up to $9000.
The conviction was a result of collaboration between the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), Maritime Border Command (MBC), a multi-agency task force within the Australian Border Force (ABF), and Parks Australia in a joint operation to crack down on international fishers illegally poaching our marine resources.
Consequently, the fishers have been found guilty of criminal offences committed against Australian fisheries and environmental laws.
AFMA's general manager operations, Peter Venslovas, said that as Australia's fish resources are well managed and sustainable, they are a target for illegal operators, but there is no need for alarm.
"Since July 1 last year, 12 foreign vessels have been apprehended for illegally fishing in Commonwealth fisheries, however this is significantly down from the figures of 300 plus in the mid-2000s,"Mr Venslovas said.
"AFMA, together with other Australian government agencies, like ABF and Parks Australia, will continue to remain on alert and take action against suspected illegal fishing activity."
Australian forces are cracking down on Vietnamese fishermen in Australia's waters who sometimes travel more than 6000km to poach beche-de-mers, better known as sea cucumbers.
It's believed tougher policing of the oceans in Asia and low fish stocks has driven the crewmen further ashore to Australian waters.
MBC's Acting Commander, Stephen Alexander, praised the work of all agencies involved; particularly the crew of HMAS Bathurst and ABF Cutter Storm Bay, who are continually patrolling the outer areas of the north-east Exclusive Economic Zone including Mellish, Saumarez and Lihou Reefs. Both vessels assisted in the apprehension.
"This second successful prosecution of those looking to profit off our unique marine environment sends a strong message to others who may seek to do the same," acting commander MBC Alexander said.
More information on how Australia is working to combat illegal fishing can be found at afma.gov.au