TWO Burmese refugees received fines in Mandurah Magistrates Court today for catching 85 undersized blue manna crabs.
Hannah Din and Eh Ku used a translator to plead guilty to possessing a totally protected fish.
Din also pleaded guilty to obstructing fisheries officers.
A Department of Fisheries prosecutor told the court the friends were crabbing on January 8, at the Murray River underpass at North Yunderup.
Fisheries officers were conducting patrols when they observed the pair catching crabs using a homemade crab net, which is illegal.
They were told to stop by the officers and were observed pushing a bucket in the water containing about 25 small crabs.
Near Ku was a second bucket officers claimed contained 20 more crabs.
Din was observed by officers trying to hide an esky containing 40 undersized crabs.
Some of the crabs were only 69mm, nearly half the legal 127mm size limit.
The accused pair were cautioned and interviewed.
During the interview, Ku told officers they came to Mandurah from Perth to catch crabs using the nets he made.
He told them he did not know the legal size limit.
Din told the officers she was going to cook the crabs.
Counsel for the accused, duty lawyer Clare Hay, said Ku came to Australia nine years ago and Din seven years ago.
She said the friends were both unemployed Burmese refugees, with three children each, who survived on government benefits as they spoke limited English.
Ms Hay said they attempted to hide the crabs as they were scared of authorities.
Magistrate Leanne Atkins initially adjourned the case so the couple could engage the services of the duty lawyer.
Ms Hay said it was unusual for her to assist with fisheries cases as legal aid does not have the resources; however she complied with the Magistrate’s request.
Magistrate Atkins called the pair selfish and greedy.
“You stop other people from having the enjoyment of crabbing because you take all the stocks,” she said.
“People like you come down and take undersized crabs and destroy natural resources.”
She fined them $1000 each and they were ordered to pay a mandatory penalty of $4250.
Magistrate Atkins also fined Dunan Sun $200 and ordered him to pay $7400 for possessing 148 undersized crabs at Coodanup Estuary on November 15.
He pleaded guilty via a translator to possessing a totally protected fish.
Two of his co-accused pleaded not guilty and will reappear at a later date for trial.
A fourth co-accused appeared earlier this year and was fined the same amount.
The court heard Sun is a Chinese student who has been studying English in Australia for two years.
As he was not gainfully employed and relied on his parents for money Magistrate Atkins considered a community based order, but that was determined not to be a suitable punishment.
She gave him a 15 per cent sentencing discount for the early guilty plea.
When he asked Magistrate Atkins to give him a further discount, she told him she would not engage in bargaining.