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Jail For Abalone Poachers


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Jail for abalone poachers

Three poachers have felt the full force of Victoria's tough abalone laws when a magistrate jailed them, confiscated a car and boat and penalised the men more than $10,000.

In a legal first, they were ordered to pay compensation to the state of Victoria for the 517 abalone they took during the close season.

Magistrate Max Beck today warned that the message would eventually get through to offenders that "it's not worth the risk to poach abalone".

Mr Beck told the men, who fought against losing their possessions, it was irrelevant whether they had a Rolls Royce or an old car because "if you use it, it can be confiscated as property used for the purposes of committing offences".

Peter Phung, 45, Lung Van Luu, 38, and Hung Quoc Doan, 28, each pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking a commercial quantity of abalone, a protected species.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' jail.

They also pleaded guilty to contravening the prohibition on fishing for abalone and other offences, while Luu and Doan pleaded guilty to hindering or obstructing Fisheries officers.

Department of Primary Industries prosecutor Ian Parks told Geelong Magistrates Court the men travelled by boat from Werribee South to Point Wilson on May 4 this year where Luu and Doan dived for abalone.

Mr Parks said Fisheries officers were alerted when someone rang the 24-hour "Call 13 Fish" number for suspected illegal fishing.

Doan was later seen stashing the abalone in bushes before he and Luu returned there at 7.10pm in a stationwagon to collect the fish.

Mr Parks said when officers tried to intercept them they drove off and were followed onto the Princes Highway where they threw the two bags of abalone weighing 39.5 kilograms from the car.

They were later chased and captured on foot after abandoning the car. Doan said he "saw so many (abalone) I got greedy" while Phung told investigators he knew May was included in the abalone close season.

Sophisticated operation

In his application for compensation of $1830 from each man, Mr Parks said the abalone was valued by a commercial processor at $5491.

He described the operation as sophisticated and urged Mr Beck to make the confiscation orders, including the $13,000 boat which was a luxury rather than an commercial item.

All three had been given infringement notices last year for possessing more than the commercial abalone limit while Luu has twice before appeared on Fisheries charges.

Defence lawyer Daniel Piekarski asked Mr Beck not to penalise Phung, a truck driver and father of two, twice in sentencing him for the offences and in taking his boat.

Mr Piekarski said Doan, single and unemployed, would be disadvantaged in finding work if his car was forfeited, while Luu, self-employed and a father of three, opposed an order to confiscate his mobile phone.

Imprisonment justified

He submitted that jail was not the most appropriate sentence for men who had been foolish in breaching such strict laws.

Mr Beck said imprisonment was justified given the men were aware of the law, the impact on the abalone industry and environment and that each defendant was as guilty as the other.

Luu, of Lalor, was jailed for 12 months with a minimum of six months, fined $750 and ordered to pay costs of $720.

Doan, of Lalor, was jailed for nine months with a minimum of three months and fined $1250 with costs of $750.

Phung, of Sunshine West, was jailed for nine months with a minimum of three months, fined $400 and ordered to pay $750 costs.

The men, who were released pending an appeal to the County Court, were also banned for 10 years from being on or near Victoria's coast or on certain boats if connected with abalone.


This boat used by the abalone poachers was confiscated in Geelong Magistrates' court today.

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