A fisherman from Geraldton in Western Australia has lost fishing rights worth more than A$7.5 million, lost his commercial fishing licence cancelled and is facing additional fines, penalties and court costs amounting to A$302,498.
Digital forensics played a key role in the case brought against Sam Vincent Basile a fisheries officers were able to recover tracking data from the navigational computer of the vessel at the time of the offences, demonstrating that he had on seven occasions fished in more than one zone of the West Coast Rock Lobster Managed Fishery during a single trip.
Retrieved plotter data showed that while he had nominated to fish in Zone B, he had fished around the Abrolhos Islands within Zone A during transit.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) Midwest Compliance Manager Mick Kelly said this case should be a reminder to both commercial and recreational fishermen that severe penalties could be imposed for non-compliant behaviour in WA’s fisheries.
‘The department has the resources and skills to investigate complex and protracted investigations like this,’ he said, adding that WA’s western rock lobster fishery was the first fishery in the world to be independently certified as sustainable, through the Marine Stewardship Council.
This case supports the certification by ensuring there are high levels of compliance with management arrangements.
‘DPIRD’s fisheries compliance officers have achieved a successful prosecution today through their investigative capabilities, including our increasing use of digital forensics in analysing and compiling evidence for offences,’ he said.
Sam Vincent Basile was sentenced in Perth Magistrates Court, having pleaded guilty to 17 offences, including providing false and misleading information in pre-fishing nominations, and catch in excess of licensed entitlement.
In addition to the loss of entitlements and licence cancellation, he was issued with a general fine of A$86,000 and court costs of A$60,000, as well as a mandatory penalty of A$156,498 related to the lobster catches associated with the offences.