Big time crabber busted for undersized catch
One of Queensland's biggest crab suppliers has been fined thousands after being caught with an undersized catch and failing to provide all necessary information on sales dockets.
Coles and Woolworths supplier Garry David Smith, 66, was caught with 146 undersized blue swimmer crabs in December 2018 at Birkdale.
Smith pleaded guilty to one count of possessing unregulated fish and 131 counts of failing to comply with an information requirement on various dates in 2018.
The Brisbane Magistrates Court this week heard the third-generation commercial fisherman was a four decade veteran of crabbing in Moreton Bay with only two minor previous fisheries violations.
Barrister Doug Wilson, prosecuting on behalf of Fisheries, said the crabs were discovered on Smith's boat in hatches "operated by effectively a secret lever" designed to "limit the risk of detection" during an inspection.
"The sophistication … in putting that number of undersized crabs in the hull of the boat is really in my respectful submission the most serious aspect of the offence," he said.
Smith told investigators the hatches had been installed by the boat's previous owner.
The court heard Smith had entered some but not all of the information required on sales dockets and several incomplete logbook entries.
Smith's barrister Jim Veivers said his client was trying to fulfil orders at a time when there were less crabs.
"For the first time in many years they were very, very scarce, and he didn't have enough crabs to supply to persons that he had been supplying. He did the wrong thing, he accepts that," he said.
" He was trying to help two regular customers and no other reason."
The value of the undersized crabs was just $876, the court heard.
After he was caught Smith's two crab licences were indefinitely suspended and his boat has been impounded.
As a result he has lost about $345,000 since it happened.
"He was one of the biggest crabbing suppliers in Queensland for many years and it's all undone because of this behaviour," Mr Veivers said.
Speaking directly to the court Smith said the impact on his family business, which includes three generations of crabbers, had been big.
"We've built up a huge business out there - we're the only ones who can supply Coles and Woolworths with sand crabs in Queensland," he said.
The court heard Smith had worked with a Fisheries scientist studying crab migrations for three decades and was one of the original crabbers who agreed log books should be introduced by the Queensland Government.
Magistrate Suzette Coates said Smith had been "impulsive, foolish and very silly".
"The taking of undersized crabs destroys the reproduction cycle of the blue swimmer crab," she said.
Ms Coates said Smith had otherwise been a "responsible and contributing member of society".
Smith was fined $17,000.
Ms Coates declined to forfeit his boat for destruction as sought by the prosecution.
Originally published as Big time crabber busted for undersized catch