Fine risk for big marron haul

Georgia LoneyThe West Australian
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WA marron stocks, already under pressure from drought and dwindling dam levels, have been hit by illegal fishing ahead of the season which begins on Saturday.

South West police stopped a man with 95 marron at a dawn roadside vehicle check near Harvey yesterday. The bag limit in season is 10.

The 36-year-old Eaton man could face charges and fines up to $15,000 over the allegations that he had been fishing out of season, with 69 of the freshwater crayfish seized reported to be under the 80mm minimum size limit.

A 44-year-old Bunbury man was fined just over $500 in the Busselton Magistrate's Court yesterday after he was found with 48 cooked marron near Nannup on November 7.

Sgt Jeff Taylor, of Harvey police, said the Eaton man had his two small children in the car when he was stopped at 5am on South Western Highway in Wokalup yesterday.

A search of the vehicle uncovered the native freshwater crustaceans.

Fisheries WA Bunbury supervisor Graeme Hall said the seizure was one of the largest finds of illegally caught marron in recent years.

"There have been some cases of people being caught in excess of 100 marron," he said.

"Certainly, it's a lot for personal consumption," he said.

He said illegal fishing represented a threat to the marron fishery in the South West.

The amount of marron caught in the State each year dropped from about 100 tonnes in the 1970s to 15 tonnes last year. The drop is the result of increased fishing restrictions, declining rainfall and poor water quality.

Fisheries WA South West bioregions manager Kevin Donohue said fisheries would be monitoring catches closely.

"Not only do low water levels have an impact on marron recruitment, they make existing stock more vulnerable to capture," he said.

Mr Donohue said if low rainfall continued options to ensure the fishery remained sustainable would need to be discussed with stakeholders before next year's season.

The illegally caught marron were returned to Harvey Dam yesterday.

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