WATCH: Illegal fishers in a pinch as vessel crushed
THE boat at the centre of Queensland's biggest black market fisheries prosecution has been destroyed as part of a hefty penalty imposed on a Mackay aquaculture business.
The operators of a Mackay business and a contractor were fined a total of $115,000 and had to forfeit their boat to the state government for multiple breaches of their permit to collect redclaw, a freshwater crayfish.
The illegal fishers found themselves in a pinch after Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers uncovered the clandestine organisation during a 16-month covert surveillance operation.
Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said officers patrolled Mackay, Emerald and Fairbairn Dam after complaints alleging commercial take of wild redclaw from the dam in July 2016.
The officers discovered a "syndicate of people linked to a licensed redclaw aquaculture facility operating in Mackay," Mr Furner said.
"Redclaw can only be sold as a result of aquaculture operations and the take and sale of wild-caught redclaw is prohibited," he said.
"A permit to collect up to 200 redclaw for broodstock purposes was fraudulently used to take more than 14,000kg of redclaw from Fairbairn Dam and later sold."
The surveillance operation resulted in three people being charged with a total of 54 offences including the use of excess, unmarked and sunken freshwater traps, the unlawful sale of redclaw, and the falsification of logbooks, Mr Furner said.
Three defendants were fined $70,000, $30,000 and $15,000 by the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
To mark the end of the black market syndicate, on Friday the 4.3 metre aluminium vessel at the centre of the black market business was reduced to recycling material.
Due to illegal modifications to the boat's trailer and the age of the boat, Fisheries declared it unsafe to resell and decided to crush the boat.
Mr Furner said the boat was crushed to show all fishers what could happen if they flouted Queensland's fisheries laws.
"Our message is clear. There is no excuse for black marketing fish and we won't stand for it," he said.
Anyone found guilty of black marketing or trafficking in fish could face fines of up to $400,000 and up to three years jail.
Mr Furner said reforms to fisheries management were about protecting jobs in both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors and building sustainable fish stocks.
"Our state's fisheries resources belong to all Queenslanders and it is our job to protect fish for the future," he said.
Anyone who suspects illegal fishing activities should report it by calling the 24 hour toll-free Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.