Vietnamese fishing boat crew plead guilty
FIFTEEN Vietnamese men caught illegally fishing off the Gladstone coast last month have been convicted and sentenced to jail terms.
Appearing in Darwin Magistrates Court, the men pleaded guilty to illegal fishing and a range of environmental protection offences for poaching sea cucumbers in a Commonwealth Marine Reserve.
The boat's master received a four-month suspended jail sentence for the offences, while 13 crew members received suspended terms ranging between two and three months.
An Australian Fisheries Management Authority spokesperson confirmed those given suspended sentences would be repatriated to their country of origin.
The 15th crew member, a repeat offender, received a five-month prison sentence which will be served in Darwin.
Their fishing boat was first detected by a Maritime Border Command surveillance aircraft on April 6.
The crew was then caught by surprise on April 10 by Australian Border Force cutter Cape Jervis near Saumarez Reef in the Coral Sea.
Four fishermen were in the water diving when the Cape Jervis arrived.
The men were brought ashore to Gladstone on April 12 before being transferred to Darwin.
Maritime Border Command acting commander Jo Crooks said the conviction highlighted Australia and its regional partners' efforts to stop the illegal exploitation of Australia's marine natural resources.
"We are constantly alert and responsive to anything that threatens our marine environment," she said.
"Illegal fishers attempting to exploit our well-managed fisheries have been put on notice - we are constantly surveilling our maritime domain.
"We will catch you, we will prosecute you, and you could lose your boat and your livelihood."