Hefty fines handed down for hundreds of undersized crabs caught around Peel

Photo: File Image.
Photo: File Image.

A number of people were handed down hefty fines in the Mandurah Magistrates Court on June 26 for catching undersized crabs around the Peel region.

Thi Ba Dao, Thi Thuy Le, Hoang Duy Pham and Tu Ngoc Phan endorsed guilty pleas to their charges and did not appear in court.

It was the group's second offence each, after they were charged and fined for possessing undersized crabs in 2014.

Fisheries prosecutor Ryan Smith told the court the group were among five people in a vehicle pulled over by Fisheries officers on Forrest Highway on January 27, 2020.

There were 62 Blue Swimmer crabs in their possession under the 127 millimetre legal size limit, as well as one of legal size, he said.

They ranged in size from 88mm-125mm.

At the time, the offenders admitted in interviews that they were "taking the crabs home to eat".

Mr Smith described the crabs as "visibly undersized" and said they were unable to be released back into the estuary.

"The minimum size is to protect livestock so they can breed... this is not good for crab stocks," he said.

"They're not locals, they've come down... they should have learned the first time."

Magistrate Tanya Watt said the group had "expressed deep regret", but that general deterrence was "paramount".

"You can see how seriously we take this offence... you need to know the rules," she said.

"By taking the smaller crabs, that's very much hurting the crab industry."

Each offender was ordered to pay $3100, a $1000 penalty and $225.30 in costs.

The fifth person in the vehicle was given an on-the-spot fine of $1000 because it was their first offence.

In a separate matter, another group of four were fined for possessing almost 100 undersized crabs and exceeding the daily maximum bag limit.

Tan Sang Dang, Lee Ping Sui, Lianxiang Xiao and Lian Jiao Zhang entered endorsed guilty pleas to their charges and did not appear in court.

Mr Smith told the court the group of four men were catching the crabs from the Peel Inlet in Coodanup around 4pm on December 24, 2019.

They were caught by Fisheries officers just five minutes after leaving the area.

There were 101 Blue Swimmer crabs in a bucket and two in a scoop - 96 of which were undersized, Mr Smith said.

"They had a free Fisheries-issued gauge in their possession," he added.

They ranged in size from 103.5mm to 124.5mm.

The crabs were released back into the estuary.

Ms Watt said, while the offenders had no prior records, it was still a "serious matter".

Each offender was ordered to pay $4800, a $1000 penalty and $225.30 in costs.

Further, a seperate pair were also fined for catching undersized crabs around 10.40pm on January 4, 2020.

Alan Glynn appeared in court and pleaded guilty to his charges, while his co-accused, Bluker Sein Cho, entered an endorsed guilty plea to his charge and did not appear in court.

Mr Smith said the duo were caught as they walked ashore carrying scoop nets near Herron Point.

Of the 44 Blue Swimmer crabs in their possession, 39 were undersized, he said.

There were also an additional four undersized crabs in a nearby pot belonging to them.

They ranged in size from 92mm to 126mm.

Glynn, who represented himself in court, said he didn't often go crabbing.

"I just went along with my family," he said,

"We were going to measure them and take the undersized ones back."

However, Ms Watt said ignorance was "no excuse of the law".

"You have to measure before you put them in the bucket," she said.

"I understand you're saying to me that you didn't know... but you do know now."

Ms Watt told the court Sein Cho had written an apology letter and displayed remorse for his actions.

Each offender was ordered to pay $2150, a $1000 penalty and $225.30 in costs.