by Hugo Zoller
Two Melbourne men in the Moorabbin Justice Centre yesterday were convicted and prosecuted for exceeding the daily catch limit for snapper and hindering a Fisheries Officer in the course of his duties during a routine inspection at Black Rock in December last year.
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The two men, a 42-year-old from Coburg and a 39-year-old from Cheltenham, were inspected by Fisheries Officers upon returning to the Black Rock boat ramp on December 7.
The men presented six snapper larger than 40cm to the Fisheries Officers and denied they had taken any other fish.
However, a subsequent inspection revealed a further 12 snapper concealed under the floor of their boat.
The daily catch limit for snapper over 40cm is three per person, while it is an offence to hinder Fisheries Officers in the course of their duties by attempting to conceal any fish or by providing false and misleading information.
The court heard last week that the men were subsequently interviewed and admitted to exceeding the catch limit and attempting to conceal their excess catch.
Fisheries Officer Joshua Hannaford, who prosecuted the matter in court, said the tough penalties issued against the men were an indication of the serious nature of the offences.
'Exceeding catch limits for snapper is a major issue in Port Phillip Bay due to Melbourne’s increasing population and the way in which spawning snapper group together when entering the Bay,' Officer Hannaford said.
'The schooling behaviour of snapper means they are often heavily targeted by boat based anglers and the ability to catch large numbers can create a strong temptation to exceed the bag limits.
'However, the bag limits are in place to help safeguard the sustainability of the snapper resource and ignoring the rules can potentially jeopardise what is a very popular fishery available to all recreational fishers.
'All fishers should be aware that Fisheries Officers will continue to closely snapper fishing in the Bay and will not tolerate those who flout Victoria’s fisheries regulations.
'This latest case also demonstrates that magistrates will not tolerate such behavior and will issue stiff penalties, including large fines and convictions, for serious offences.'
Anyone who sees or suspects illegal fishing is urged to call the 24-hour fisheries offence reporting line 13 FISH (13 3474)