Commercial fisherman convicted over duck deaths

Blue Billed DuckA South West commercial fisherman has been fined $2000 and ordered to pay $119 in court costs after several native birds became trapped in his fishing net at the Vasse Estuary near Busselton.

Nicholas Michael Lucas was apprehended by Department of Fisheries officers on 9 September 2010 following an operation that led to the involvement of wildlife officers from the Department of Environment and
Conservation (DEC).

Two blue-billed ducks (Oxyura australis), five hoary-headed grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) and three musk ducks (Biziura lobata) became trapped in fishing nets that were left unattended in the estuary
overnight. Two ducks were found alive and released by a wildlife officer, however eight had drowned.

Lucas pleaded guilty in the Busselton Magistrates Court last week to three charges of taking protected fauna.

DEC prosecutions coordinator Gail Ritchie said the man was charged under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

"There are many native birds and other wildlife which live in the estuary and it is important their protection is not compromised by inappropriate fishing activities," she said.

"This situation could have been easily prevented if the fishing nets had been checked regularly.

"We would like to remind fishers to take care with net placement to minimise the risk of entangling native animals and to monitor their nets at all times to ensure native animals can be immediately freed if they
become entangled or caught up in them."

The Department of Fisheries also conducted a separate investigation in relation to several related fishing offences.

Anyone who sees a sick or injured animal is encouraged to call DEC's Wildcare hotline 9474 9055.