A MAN who faced a backlash on social media for pulling another’s craypot has received hefty fines and lost his boat.
Corey John Best appeared in Rockingham Magistrates Court for sentencing on May 26 where he pleaded guilty to interfering with a net, trap or other gear used for fishing and not holding a recreational fishing licence.
The Department of Fisheries prosecutor said Fisheries received a complaint from the owner of the craypot on October 31, 2016 that someone had their pot.
Best had pulled the pot from the southern end of Garden Island and when he returned to the boat ramp the owner saw it was his pot.
He questioned Best over the pot and told him he wanted it back.
Best did not give the pot back immediately even after the owner identified steel discs and a black plastic box on the pot.
The owner then took photos of Best’s car and boat and posted them to social media where Best faced a backlash.
The owner told Fisheries he had not given permission for someone else to pull his pots.
Best told fisheries he had mistakenly pulled the pot as he had put one in the area about 24 hours earlier.
Fisheries seized Best’s boat and trailer worth $6000.
They said he had been vilified on social media for the offence.
The prosecutor said it was a serious offence that was resource intensive and something fishers did not tolerate.
The maximum penalty is a $25,000 fine or 12 months imprisonment.
“We have had a 120 per cent increase in the reports of pot interference,” the Fisheries prosecutor said.
“Rock lobster pots are clearly marked with each fisher’s identification marks; there is no excuse for mistaking pots.”
Best’s lawyer said the facts were accepted.
She said the 34-year-old only had the boat for a week and was keen to get out on the water.
He had not checked if his recreational fishing licence was up to date.
She said when he realised it was not his pot he should have put it back in the water but did not and took it back to shore intending to leave it at Rockingham Sea Rescue Group.
She said he had received direct threats on social media and had made a poor judgement call.
Magistrate Vivian Edwards disagreed that Best did not realise it was not his pot.
“Having purchased a craypot and boat his previous experience of having a licence would have made him aware that it had to be up to date if he was going out fishing,” she said.
“There seemed to be some reluctance to own up that he had taken the pot when confronted by the owner.
“In my view there was a degree of recklessness by Mr Best.
“The owner was able to point out certain features of his pot.
“Those matters are aggravating factors.”
She fined him a $3000 global fine and ordered forfeiture of his boat.
“In my view there has to be a message sent to the community. I have given a moderate fine but I will order forfeiture of the boat,” she said.
The 34-year-old Seville Grove man was granted a spent conviction.