Two Andergrove men have been fined for illegally harpooning a green turtle north of Mackay.
Two Andergrove men have been fined for illegally harpooning a green turtle north of Mackay.

Mates learn fate over harpooning turtle for wedding feast

TWO Andergrove mates have been slapped with a huge fine and ordered to pay legal costs for illegally harpooning a green turtle more than two years ago.

However, Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang and Patrick John Sabatino avoided having a conviction recorded after maritime officers found the pair with a bound green turtle in their boat.

They had been hunting the turtle for a wedding when a Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol crew stopped their boat on April 16, 2017 near Murray Creek, about 60km north of Mackay.

Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang (left) and co-accused Patrick John Sabatino outside Mackay Magistrates Court. The two were fined for taking a green turtle.
Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang (left) and co-accused Patrick John Sabatino outside Mackay Magistrates Court. The two were fined for taking a green turtle.

The officers spotted the turtle - that had its front flippers bound together and a puncture wound through the top of its shell - on the floor of the boat.

Green turtles are classed as vulnerable wildlife under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The pair was charged with taking a protected animal.

They denied the allegations in Mackay Magistrates Court, but lost their fight and were found guilty of the offence.

Ahwang and Sabatino were each fined $2000 and ordered to pay $750 in legal costs. Convictions were not recorded.

The maximum penalty for taking a protected animal under the Nature Conservation Act is a fine of up to a $400,350 fine or two years imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for taking a protected animal under the Nature Conservation Act is a fine of up to a $400,350 fine or two years imprisonment.

The court heard the pair had told QBFP officers they did not have permission from the Traditional Owners of that area to take the turtle, but had received permission on previous occasions.

The maximum penalty for taking a protected animal under the Nature Conservation Act is up to a $400,350 fine or two years imprisonment.

In sentencing the men, the magistrate considered the purpose of the statutory scheme, which is to protect wildlife including sea turtles, the seriousness of the offence as reflected in the maximum penalty and that general and personal deterrence were important.

The court also took into account that neither man had prior convictions.

"These prosecutions serve as an important reminder that the Department takes the protection of wildlife seriously and anyone acting unlawfully may face enforcement action," a Department of Environment and Science spokeswoman said.