Illicit prawn catch costs men dearly

TWO Clarence Valley commercial fishers who threatened Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers when being apprehended for illegal fishing have copped large fines in court.

DPI director fisheries compliance Glenn Tritton said the men, aged 29 and 34, from Ilarwill, were apprehended after they refused to move on from a fishing site in the Clarence River.

"The offenders participated in the monthly set pocket prawn draw for the Clarence River, and were allocated specific sites for their fishing activity for the month of September 2011," Mr Tritton said.

"It was alleged that the offenders positioned their spot 220m downstream of their allocated site and despite being instructed by fisheries officers to move their boat and fishing gear on a number of occasions, they continued to fish in the incorrect location."

Police and fisheries officers told them to release their catch and lift the net out of the water so the prawns could be seized but they refused and became abusive.

The men were charged with commercially fishing in a location that was not their allocated site, contravening conditions of endorsement licence, abusing and threatening a fisheries officer and not removing fishing gear when directed to do so.

About 200kg of school prawns were seized and returned to the water that night.

The men faced Maclean Local Court last month and were fined $12,500 and ordered to pay $4800 in costs.

Mr Tritton said the ballot system was in place to promote fair access.

"When this long established ballot process is deliberately violated, commercial fishers are simply cheating themselves," he said.

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