Paying a heavy price for illegal fish
It may have seemed a smart idea at the time, but an Australian fish and chip shop owner and three of his friends are regretting the day they decided to go fishing to sell their catches, as magistrates handed down jail terms, heavy fines and ordered a boat, a truck and fishing gear to be forfeited.
The racket was uncovered by fishery officers in the state of Victoria, in a 16-month investigation.
â€˜The investigation, Operation Torpedo, was one of the biggest ever in Fisheriesâ€™ history and VFA officers conducted surveillance on the four men many times whilst they fished along the southwest Victorian coast,â€™ said Victorian Fisheries Authority Director of Education and Enforcement Ian Parks said the serious sentences show that people who illegally take fish and those who sell them can and will be prosecuted.
The chip shopâ€™s owner and his associates pleaded guilty to illegally taking fish for sale, exceeding catch limits and dealing with the proceeds of crime
â€˜The fish and chip shop owner pleaded guilty to illegally taking shark and other fish and selling them through his retail outlet. He also pleaded guilty to possessing commercial fishing equipment, failing to retain shark in carcass form, exceeding the daily catch limit for sharks and dealing with the proceeds of crime to the value of $50,000. He was convicted and sentenced to three months imprisonment, banned from fishing or being aboard a boat in Victorian waters for ten years, fined $9000 and had his $150,000 boat, truck and fishing gear forfeited,â€™ Ian Parks said.
â€˜A second man involved in the shopâ€™s management was convicted and sentenced to the same without forfeiture. A third man, who accompanied the shop owner on most fishing trips, was convicted and sentenced to two months imprisonment, banned from fishing or being aboard a boat for ten years and fined $7500. The fourth man, who participated in six fishing trips, was convicted, fined $6000 and banned from recreational fishing for 12 months.'
Three of the men have lodged appeals.
In handing down the sentences, Magistrate Holzer said gummy and school shark (often sold as flake), mako shark, flathead, snapper, morwong, leatherjacket and gurnard were taken back to the shop, processed, then laundered and sold as legitimately sourced seafood.
â€˜Your actions were motivated by self-interest and greed. You donâ€™t have to be Einstein to work out whatâ€™s going on here,â€™ Magistrate Holzer said.
â€˜Our Fisheries Officers and investigators will continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised illegal fishing activity as a priority,â€™ Ian Parks said. â€˜We are dedicated to exploring all avenues to bring offenders to justice and protect Victoria's fisheries resources for sustainable and legitimate use.â€™
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