Accused illegal fishermen Leighton Cameron Little and Elwyn James Mann (both in foreground) leave Rockhampton Magistrates Court.
Accused illegal fishermen Leighton Cameron Little and Elwyn James Mann (both in foreground) leave Rockhampton Magistrates Court. File

Men fined for using commercial net

TWO men claiming to have native title rights to use a commercial net to fish in Rockhampton’s Moore’s Creek, have been fined $2000 each.

Rockhampton man Elwyn James Mann and his cousin Leighton Cameron Little appeared in Rockhampton Magistrates Court late on Tuesday afternoon facing charges of illegally using commercial fishing equipment in Moores Creek and for taking fish caught with the equipment.

On January 5 last year, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers from Yeppoon were called to Moore’s Creek after reports of illegal fishing in the area.

When the officers reached the scene, they found Mann and Little using a commercial fishing net for which a permit is required.

Officers seized the 80 metre-long net which was extended across the entire width of Moore’s Creek.

When they first faced court in October last year, both pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming to have native title rights to fish in the area.

Mann said he’d owned the net for about three or four years and at least two other members of his family had a similar net.

He told the court even as a little boy his dad would take him fishing and teach him to use a net.

Whenever he caught more fish than he could eat, Mann said he shared them with family or bartered them for other food.

But he said he never sold the fish.

Little, who is from the Waka Waka Tribe and a cousin of Mann’s, told the court he’d moved to the Rockhampton area in the last two years and fished Moores Creek “a couple of times”.

He described his family as “hunters and gatherers”, saying he was taught by his father as a youngster to catch fish using cast nets, dragging, crabbing and other hunting.

“We thought we had the right to be there,” he said.

“I always thought we had the right to do it.”

Before Little and Mann were stopped by QBFP officers they had caught about five fish.

Little said they ate them, sharing the catch evenly.

Although Queensland’s Fisheries Act does recognise traditional fishing rights, it doesn’t include fishing activity which involves the use of commercial apparatus.

Magistrate John McGrath said he accepted Mann and Little mistakenly believed they had Native Title rights but it did not give them the right to act illegally.

Magistrate McGrath said he hoped the penalty would serve as a warning regarding illegal fishing activities and should act as a significant deterrent.

Mann and Little were fined $2000 each and no convictions were recorded.

A spokesperson for the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation yesterday said all anglers, including traditional fishers, need to remember that the rules exist to ensure fish stocks remain strong for future generations.

Suspected illegal fishing activity can be reported to the free 24-hour Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.



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