A family from the WA Midwest fishing community of Leeman has been ordered to pay more than $70,000 in fines and costs after selling 76 black market Western Rock Lobster to undercover officers during an operation between June 2018 and April 2019.
- Couple and adult son fined total of $70,000 for selling black market Western Rock Lobster.
- Magistrate says sales were ‘intentional’ and for profit.
- Trio charged after 10-month undercover operation.
Ronald George Dennis, 67, his wife Lorna Frances Weeks, 67 and their son Ronald Francis Dennis, 29 pleaded guilty to charges of intentionally or recklessly contravening a provision of a management plan.
They were not in court for the sentencing today.
Prosecutor Alex Miller said undercover operatives went to a function at the Leeman Country Club in June 2018 and arranged to buy rock lobster from Ronald Dennis junior.
An earlier court hearing was told rock lobster were being given out as prizes on the night for a darts competition.
The prosecutor said the next day the operatives handed over $90 for six rock lobster during an exchange in a car park.
The court heard Weeks had driven the vehicle to the meeting place.
On another occasion, Dennis senior sold 20 rock lobster to the operatives for $300 and told him ‘people are lining up for lobster’.
Magistrate Christian Miocevich said the behaviour had been intentional rather than reckless.
“All three parties knew what they were doing, knew what they were doing was wrong and specifically told the undercover operative to keep it quiet,” he said in sentencing the trio.
The magistrate said the undercover operative was even given advice on avoiding detection.
He said the state’s rock lobster fishery was ‘managed carefully’, and the maximum penalties for recreational fishers who sell the crustacean reflected the seriousness of the offence.
Mr Miocevich said he had initial concerns about the undercover operatives making the approaches to the family to buy rock lobster over the period of the operation but said he accepted the submissions from the State Solicitor’s Office about the process.
“Sometimes it is necessary … to allow that operation to continue” to gauge the extent of the illegal behaviour,” Mr Miocevich said.
The magistrate said ‘theoretically’ Dennis junior could have been fined $160,000.
Penalties included mandatory fines plus an additional penalty based on the weight of the rock lobster.
He imposed a $31,810 fine on Dennis junior, an $18,035 fine on Dennis senior and a fine of $19,830 on Weeks.
The three were each ordered to pay costs of $780.70.
He did not ban them from holding a licence in future.
Letters of apology
The family was not represented by a lawyer in court, but two wrote letters to the magistrate about their circumstances.
In a handwritten letter to the court, Weeks said, “I am sorry I got involved. I know I should not have driven to help them out”.
She told the magistrate she was a disability pensioner.
Her husband wrote saying he was a carer and was “glad it is being dealt with”.
“I am sorry these matters happened,” he wrote.