Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Tsai Te CHEN - Illegal fishing

Northern Territory

On 9 December 2016, the master of the Papua New Guinea-flagged trawler CAPS 01, was convicted and fined $110,000 in the Darwin Supreme Court. The owners were also penalised $300,000, after posting a bond for the return of their vessel on the condition its location could be monitored by Australian Fisheries Management Authority’s (AFMA) satellite-based tracking system. These are the highest penalties for illegal fishing in more than a decade.

The CAPS 01 was sighted on 23 September 2016 approximately 110 nautical miles west of Thursday Island in Queensland, and approximately 2.8 nautical miles inside the Australian Fishing Zone.

Crew members could be seen moving around on deck and a large crane at the back of the vessel was hauling in nets from the ocean. In addition, nets were being moved around on deck and two fishing lines extended from the back of the vessel into the ocean.

The vessel was also displaying the internationally-recognised red and white lights at the mast to indicate it was actively trawling.

At approximately 9.30pm, a boarding party from the Cape Byron patrol boat that included Defence Force personnel and an AFMA officer, embarked, intercepted and boarded the vessel. Approximately 10 tonnes of catch was found on board.

After cautioning the master of the boat, the Australian officials interviewed him and discovered the boat’s homeport was Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and that it had been at sea for 11 days.

The boat was not licensed to fish in Australian Waters and it was navigating via GPS. The vessel had an Australian chart that depicted the Arafura Sea, Gulf of Carpentaria, and the boundary lines of the Australian Fishing Zone.

Charge / Sentence

On 9 December 2016, the boat’s master Tsai Te Chen was convicted of both offences and fined an aggregate of $110 000, in relation to:

  • 1 charge of Using foreign boat fishing contrary to subsection 100A(1) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991
  • 1 charge of Having foreign boat equipped for fishing contrary to subsection 101A(1) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991

Sentencing Remarks:

Her Honour took into account several considerations, including the fact that endangered species were taken and that the incursion was 2.8 nautical miles into the AFZ. She stated that the vessel was a large commercial vessel and had large quantities of fish on-board. Unlawful fishing is a significant problem for the Australian community and it is prevalent and increasing. There is a need to emphasise general deterrence and to impose a penalty to discourage others from doing the same thing.