From: Associated Press
Published September 14, 2004 12:00 AM

Captain and First Mate of Uruguayan Fishing Boat Are Fined for Poaching Chilean Sea Bass

PERTH, Australia — The captain and first mate of a Uruguayan fishing boat were fined 30,000 Australian dollars (US$20,700; euro 17,000) each recently, after pleading guilty to poaching prized Chilean sea bass from Australian waters.


Perth District Court judge William Groves said he would have slapped bigger fines on the two men if he thought they could have afforded to pay.


Australian navy sailors stormed the ship, rappelling down ropes from a helicopter in frigid Antarctic seas 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) southwest of the western Australian city of Perth on Jan. 21. On board they found 202 tons of the fish, also known as Patagonian toothfish.


The ship's captain, Uruguayan Charles Thomas Pena, 71, and Spanish first mate Manuel Torres Regueira, 40, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count each of having a foreign boat equipped for fishing in Australia's fishing zone and intentionally using a foreign boat for fishing in the area.


The offenses carry maximum penalties of A$275,000 (US$190,000; euro 155,000) and A$550,000 (US$380,000; euro 310,000), respectively.


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Groves said he wanted to fine the men more but believed they would be unable to pay.


"I must take into account your respective financial circumstances to ascertain whether a lesser fine might better accord with justice," he said. "If I were to impose fines beyond your financial capacity to pay I would in effect be imposing the term of imprisonment that applies in default."


Groves also told the men that upon returning to their homelands, they should spread the message that Australian courts deal harshly with illegal fishers.


The men are expected to be deported once they have paid the fines.


Source: Associated Press


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