TWO men have been fined more than $25,000 between them after causing a big loss to a second generation commercial rock lobster fisher’s livelihood.
Keith Bernard Knowler and Sydney James Knowler appeared at Rockingham Magistrates Court today for sentencing after Keith Knowler’s son Jason Knowler was fined $10,000, at Rockingham Magistrates Court on October 9 for related offences.
Keith Knowler pleaded guilty to eight interference with fishing gear charges and one charge of being in possession of more than the bag limit for rock lobsters.
Sydney Knowler pleaded guilty to a charge of having rock lobster in excess of the bag limit.
The Fisheries Prosecutor said the offences happened during an nine-day period from December 12-21, 2016.
In that time, Keith Knowler found the commercial fisher’s pots near Coventry Reef, off Safety Bay-Shoalwater.
He pulled them in, removed their ID floats marked M8 and then attached his own ID floats marked KK0250.
On December 14, Keith and Jason removed an unknown number of crayfish from the stolen pots and placed more of their own floats on more pots.
A few days later, Keith and Sydney pulled the stolen pots, taking 34 lobsters.
On December 21, Keith and Sydney Knowler were arrested by Fisheries officers at the Bent Street Boat Ramp when they returned from fishing.
Fisheries questioned them and found they had a lobster crawling around in the front of their boat and 16 secreted away in a floor compartment under a carpet mat.
At later interviews with Fisheries, Keith Knowler admitted to stealing the pots and crayfish with his son Jason on December 14, along with committing similar offences with Sydney Knowler.
Their lawyer said the facts were accepted.
He said both men were on service pensions and were former Vietnam veterans.
“Keith has been a recreational fisher for three years and he co-owned a boat with his son, Jason,” he said.
“He has never done this before and certainly not involved in a commercial sense by selling the lobster.
“When they went out the son changed the floats.
“The reason was Christmas was approaching and he had lost pots himself.
“He would give the crayfish to the RSL each year.
“He did it as a hobby.
“They are both on service pensions. These two men served their country with distinction”
He asked for minimum penalties.
The prosecutor said the maximum penalties for the offences were $25,000 for each interference charge or 12 months prison.
He said the offences were serious and fish resources for future generations needed protection.
“It’s an offence of dishonesty depriving one fisher of his livelihood,” he said.
“The fisher is a second generation commercial fisherman operating out of Mandurah.
“Co-operation and goodwill is needed among fishers as pots need to be set over night or a few days and offences like this lead to distrust and the offences themselves are difficult to detect and police.”
A victim impact statement from the commercial fisherman was handed to Magistrate Vivian Edwards.
Magistrate Edwards sentenced Keith first.
“The fisherman’s livelihood depends on how many he catches and this has had a significant impact on his livelihood,” she said.
“The offences were serious – you acted dishonestly – eight times over nine days.
“There is a need for general and specific deterrence.
“I note another offender Jason Knowler was fined $10,000 so I must take that into account for parity.”
She also took into account his ability to pay a fine and his prior good record.
“The totality of eight offences at the maximum is $225,000,” she said.
“The gravity and number of offences over nine days is significant.”
She imposed a global fine of $16,000 and the additional mandatory fine of $4500 for the excess lobster.
She made an order for forfeiture of the boat, lobster and related fishing gear and prohibited him from fishing for lobster for 12 months.
Sydney Knowler was fined the mandatory $4500 plus an additional $750.
“In my view your offending is certainly the lesser of the two,” she said.
“I am not satisfied that you would do this again so the prohibition order is declined.”
She made an order for forfeiture of two lobster.