THE first person in WA to be sentenced over a tough new poaching law has avoided jail despite the prosecution strongly urging for imprisonment after he took 255 abalone from the protected Marmion Marine Park.
Dat Duc Luu faced Joondalup Magistrates Court today, having pleaded guilty to multiple offences, the most serious being that he was “a person that trafficked in a commercial quantity of priority fish” on December 30, 2016.
Luu, aged in his mid 40s, was the first person in the state to be sentenced over the charge, which was introduced to give magistrates the power to send illegal fishers to jail if they took a commercial-sized catch – deemed to be ten times the bag limit.
Luu’s haul of 255 was 17 times the bag limit of 15 for Roe’s abalone.
He was facing a maximum two years in jail or $200,000 fine, but Magistrate Gregory Benn opted for a $10,000 punishment.
Mr Benn said a prison term was “not an outrageous submission” but did not think it was warranted because Luu had poached the Roe’s abalone to give as gifts, rather than sell for commercial gain.
Luu also received mandatory penalties and fines for other offences totalling more than $8000, which left him nearly $20,000 in debt over his illegal catch.
He was banned from abalone fishing for two years.
Mr Benn also had to consider whether Luu was allowed to have his car back because Fisheries officers had seized it at the time of the offence.
The Jeep was his son’s car and had been impounded for more than 18 months.
The prosecution did not want it returned, but Mr Benn allowed for it, saying it would have a “significant impact on another family member” if he did not.
He scorned Luu for his behaviour, saying the degree of harm he had caused was “effectively incalculable”.
Luu had tried to poach abalone on two nights previous to his jumbo haul at Watermans Bay, but had left empty handed.
Abalone can not be taken from the marine park at any time of year.
Luu, a married father-of-three, was a fisherman in Vietnam before moving to Perth and becoming a baker.
“You must have appreciated that what you were doing was wrong and what you were doing was illegal,” Mr Benn said.
“It’s an area of high ecological value… an area of extreme importance in terms of marine research.
“Your visits to this area show a degree of repetitive and persistent illegal conduct… (this) makes the offending more serious.”
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development compliance manager Todd A’Vard said Luu’s actions were “totally unacceptable”.
“The fines imposed this week reflect the magistrate’s and the community’s concerns,” he said.
“Mr Luu admitted to fishing in the Waterman Recreation Area on three occasions and it’s the repeated offending that has also led to him being prohibited from fishing or being in possession of abalone for two years.”
Poachers can be reported to FishWatch on 1800 815 507.