OFF THE HOOK: Wally Keating avoided a $1.4 million dollar fine at Mackay Magistrates Court yesterday.
OFF THE HOOK: Wally Keating avoided a $1.4 million dollar fine at Mackay Magistrates Court yesterday. Campbell Gellie

Fisherman faced $1.4M in fines for log book blunder

A SARINA fisherman faced a maximum penalty of $1.4 million in fines when he pleaded guilty today to failing to fill out his crab log book correctly 21 times.

Magistrate Damien Dwyer said those making submissions about Wallace Keating, 79, had made a "mockery" of the law with their submissions he only be fined about $2000 - less than 10 per cent of the maximum penalty on a single charge.

But his defence argued the offences were not the actions of deceit, instead a simple oversight of a man who was not aware he was breaking the law.

Keating failed to comply with information requirements 21 times between February 12, 2018 and March 24, 2018.

Lawyer Ken Seaniger said his client "basically" filled out his log book with everything required by the act including the time, date, location, number of crabs and the number of pots he used.

But the court heard Keating did not record the days the pots sat in the water and only filled in the dates he had picked up crabs.

"The definition of fishing under the fishing act and as interpreted by the department is that when you fish and you have a crap pot in the water, that is fishing," Mr Seaniger said.

"So if you leave (the pot) for two days that is actually fishing and you have to fill in the notice every single day.

"What he has done is he has fished but just filled in the days he has gone to pick the crabs up. There is no question of deceit."

Keating told the Daily Mercury he had filled in his log book as he would have 20 years ago.

"I thought you had to be in the boat to be fishing," he said.

Mr Dwyer dismissed this argument saying Keating "should have known better" considering his age and recent history of log book related fisheries offences.

A spokesperson for Fisheries Queensland said commercial fishing logbooks clearly stated logbooks must be completed daily.

"All days during the month, including days when no fishing has taken place, must be accounted for in a Queensland fishery logbook," the spokesperson said.  

The spokesperson said Queensland Boating and Fisheries submitted a fine in the range of $1500 - $2000 - which they said was an "appropriate" penalty.

The court heard Keating's charges were initially issued as a single infringement notice which was contested and resulted in the 21 charges before the court.

Mr Dwyer agreed with Mr Seaniger's submission the 21 charges be treated as one charge.

He said he took into account Keating's early plea of guilt but could not accept the submission his actions were an "error" because of identical charges in recent years.

"Your history is not good. Up until 2002 to be fair to you, you had not received any charges and you had one in 2002," Mr Dwyer said.

"Since 2010 you have received a further 11 (charges) and now this is another 21 here. You have prior convictions in respect to these matters.

"The legislation brings with it a maximum of $63,000 for each of these offences which is roughly $1.4 million. You have a shocking history in my view."

Keating was convicted and fined $7500.