Recreational fishers have been urged to report any sightings of the illegal use of fish traps, after three abandoned devices were reported in the Gascoyne recently.
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development officers confirmed traps were set in Wapet Creek, south of Exmouth reported via the FishWatch hotline.
Fish traps are prohibited in Western Australia due to the potential impacts on aquatic life.
Department supervising fisheries and marine officer Darren Schofield said traps indiscriminately catch fish, crabs and other animals, including protected species.
“Animals that need to return to the surface to breathe are particularly at risk of getting caught in traps, including mammals, reptiles and birds, as they are unable to escape and subsequently drown,” Mr Schofield said.
“Traps left abandoned, continue to catch aquatic life, known as ghost trapping, where deceased fish or other organisms caught in the trap attract more organisms and the cycle starts over again.”
Mr Schofield said an untargeted animal was found in the traps set in Wapet Creek.
“Disturbingly, our officers found a green turtle, which had drowned,” he said. “Department officers are now following up on some investigative pathways with the aim of apprehending the offender or offenders.”
Mr Schofield said the discovery highlighted the importance of reporting any illegal fishing activity to FishWatch as soon as possible.
“Once a report is made, a text message is sent to department officers on duty to investigate,” he said. “All information is recorded to aid current and possible further investigations.”
The use of fish traps can attract fines of up to $5000, with additional penalties of 10 times the value of the fish taken.
“For example, if two mud crabs were taken using a fish trap, a fine of up to $5000 plus $120 per crab could result in a fine of $5240, which can be a pretty expensive outing,” Mr Schofield said.
Any suspect illegal fish or fishing activities should be reported to the department’s FishWatch hotline on 1800 815 507.