A bound mud crab.
A bound mud crab. Chris Ison ROK050414ccrabs4

Bay commercial fisho's $10K fine for small mud crab catch

A FATHER and part-time fisher has learned the hard way to put back undersized mud crabs after copping a $10,000 fine.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries officers inspected James Robert Muckert Venaskie's boat at the Gatakers Bay Public Boat Ramp in Point Vernon on December 31, 2018.

They found 25 undersized cooked mud crab carapaces, nine undersized whole uncooked mud crabs, three female mud crab claws and one female mud crab underbelly.

Venaskie also had 17 legal-sized cooked mud crab carapaces on the boat.

Venaskie told officers he was taking his children on fishing trip and was unaware there were undersized and female crabs in the bags, which he intended to use for burley.

DAF officer Deryk Smith told Hervey Bay Magistrates Court yesterday that, as a commercial fisherman since December 2017, Venaskie was aware of the rules surrounding mud crab size.

"He (Venaskie) said the mud crabs had been eaten over Christmas period and they had been caught by his children and other family members in Eli Creek and Pialba," Mr Smith said.

Solicitor Chris Thompson, acting in Venaskie's defence, said his client's young daughter and son were the ones who caught the crabs for domestic use.

"It was not a case of an illegal undersized commercial fishing operation," he said.

"He was surprised they were found in the bags.

"Throughout the inspection there were conversations between Mr Venaskie and his kids basically saying 'hey, you shouldn't have done this'.

"They were very apologetic and upset. Now that is no excuse obviously as Mr Venaskie was in possession of the undersized product and he has taken ownership of that today.

"They were cooked and it was not the case they were live crabs and he was selling them."

While submitting on penalties, Mr Thompson said Venaskie was in a "dire financial situation" and revealed his part-time commercial fishing was to offset his weekly income from a job at the Tiaro depot for the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Magistrate Stephen Guttridge said the penalties were significant to make sure sustainability was ensured.

"Being a commercial fisherman you are aware of that," Mr Guttridge said.

Venaskie was fined $10,000 for both offences and ordered to pay a $99.55 filing fee, with no conviction recorded.