Reef fish found on board a fishing trawler owned by Paul Grunske.
Reef fish found on board a fishing trawler owned by Paul Grunske. Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

Fisherman caught with hidden stash

A BUNDABERG commercial fisherman was fined $11,800 after he was caught with an illegal load of reef fish in a hidden compartment, sharks’ fins and a sewn-up turtle exclusion device (TED) on his trawler.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers who boarded Paul Grunske’s boat found reef fish with their pectoral fins intact, despite a requirement for recreational fishing that those fins be removed, during a trawler trip in waters near Bustard Head in November last year.

They also found a number of shark fins without torsos.

Grunske, who is also a co-owner of Bundaberg Cold Stores, pleaded guilty in Gympie Magistrates Court to three counts of unlawful possession of recreational fish, obstructing a boating and fisheries officer and contravening a condition of the turtle exclusion device.

Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin said the fisherman deliberately flouted the rules and was now paying the price with the substantial fine.

But Grunske has hit back at the Government and said scallop trawler operators were “going to the wall” because of the rules and fines that govern the industry.

“We’re over-regulated by an obese bureaucracy and we’re presided over by a judicial system that has lost its way,” Grunske said.

Grunske said he sewed up the turtle exclusion device because it was affecting his scallop haul.

“We don’t catch turtles in the scallop fishery,” he told the NewsMail.

“The technology (behind exclusion devices) has only recently been developed to operate efficiently in the scallop fishery.”

Mr Mulherin said Grunske had shown “little regard” for the environment with his actions.

“The fisher was found to have 23 fish in excess of (the) limit and had hidden them in a secret compartment to avoid detection by QBFP officers,” he said.

He said the shark fins were also hidden in a secret compartment that Grunske lied about, then caused delays in providing appropriate tools to open, before trying to throw the contents overboard.

Grunske said the compartment was not hidden.

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