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Fisher Loses Boat for Fleeing from Fisheries Officers

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AUSTRALIA - A Melbourne man has had his boat and trailer forfeited after pleading guilty to trying to flee Fisheries Officers and driving dangerously on Port Phillip Bay earlier this year.

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Magistrate Noreen Toohey, described the behaviour of Long Phong Hoang, 37, as appalling and said he was a whisker away from an immediate jail term.

The court heard that on Sunday, March 11, Fisheries Officers in a clearly marked patrol boat had spotted Hoang traveling towards Melbourne from Point Cook, on Port Phillip Bay.

This area of Port Phillip is a known location for those targeting abalone and squid. Hoang had been snorkel diving for abalone and line-fishing for squid and snapper, in the process taking and retaining onboard a quantity of abalone and squid.

As he was returning to Altona he was approached by the Fisheries patrol boat and ordered to stop, but instead made an abrupt turn and sped away at 25 knots (46km/hr).

The Fisheries Officers told the court Hoang repeatedly ignored calls and at one stage had to be warned to face the front of his vessel because he was fast approaching a vessel at anchor.

He swerved dangerously around the bow of the yacht and then slowed to throw a black fishbin over the side. The bin could not be recovered.

Mr Hoang then sped away again before he finally slowed down, preventing the officers from inspecting his catch. The court heard his excuse for speeding away was because he had an outstanding unpaid fine and thought it was the police chasing him.

He said he discarded the fishbin because he was two squid over the limit.

Magistrate Toohey banned Hoang from fishing for a year, suspended his boat operators licence for six months and ordered forfeiture of his fishing equipment and a boat and trailer worth A$7500.
He was also ordered to pay costs of just under $1000 and perform 100 hours of unpaid community service.

Fisheries Victoria Director of Education and Enforcement Michael Hodder said Fisheries Officers had the power under the Fisheries Act (Fisheries Act 1995) to stop and inspect any vehicle or vessel to ensure compliance with the Act or Regulations.

As you can see from the court outcome the penalties can be quite severe in not obeying these lawful directions, Mr Hodder said. Anyone who sees or suspects illegal fishing is urged to call the 24-hour reporting line, 13 FISH (13 3474).