A DECKHAND was on the toilet and the master catching up on sleep when their 50ft fishing trawler, Mana, run aground on Lady Musgrave Island in 2017.
A DECKHAND was on the toilet and the master catching up on sleep when their 50ft fishing trawler, Mana, run aground on Lady Musgrave Island in 2017. 7 News Central Queensland

REVEALED: Trawler crew's error caused reef shipwreck

A DECKHAND was on the toilet and the master catching up on sleep when their 15.2m fishing trawler ran aground off Lady Musgrave Island.

The collision, which caused damage to more than 800sqm of the protected zone, happened on September 9, 2017.

The two men onboard the trawler Mana - Kenneth Raymond Cargill, 50, and Glen John Watson, 47 - were due to appear in Gladstone Magistrates Court yesterday.

But neither attended and the matters were dealt with in their absence.

Both were sentenced on one count each of being in charge of a vessel that caused damage in a marine park.

The court was told Watson was the owner and master of the commercial fishing vessel Mana and Cargill was the deckhand.

The court was told a tired Watson left Cargill as "officer of watch" so he could take a break.

The court was told Watson programed Mana's navigation course and left the trawler on autopilot.

He would later tell authorities that this was "a pretty big stuff up".

Watson was sleeping when Cargill decided to take a toilet break, which he later told authorities lasted up to 30 minutes.

With no one to navigate or spot the trawler, Mana crashed into a reef off Lady Musgrave Island.

At the time it was reported that Cargill, Watson and a dog were forced to spend the night onboard after an initial attempt to free themselves failed when their anchor line and boom broke.

They were retrieved by crew from a passing boat the next day.

Commonwealth prosecutor Grace Devereaux said the damage was widespread, impacting 802sqm of the protected zone, with 518sqm "severely" impacted.

She said surveys of the scene after the collision revealed it would take up to seven years for the ecosystem to return to its former condition.

The court was told debris was spread across 700sqm and included the remains of several marine species.

The court was told the vessel was unable to be moved for weeks, causing more damage to the ecosystem as the tides changed.

When the Mana was removed it had taken on a substantial amount of water.

The court was told the men were cooperative with authorities and frank in their submissions.

The court was told that Watson told authorities the navigation error was by about 40 degrees and "a pretty big stuff up".

Ms Devereaux said both men had criminal histories, however, only Watson's was relevant.

She said Watson was sentenced in 2012 for fishing in a marine national park zone on 10 occasions over three months.

Ms Devereaux said Watson used Mana in the offending and he was fined $50,000 on that occasion.

Magistrate Dennis Kinsella recorded convictions for both men.

Cargill was fined $3000 and Watson, being the master and having a criminal history of marine offending, was fined $6000.