Mangrove thief cops $12,000 fine
TROY Lee Woods wasn't in court to hear his punishment for illegally taking rare and valuable mangroves from the Elliott River, but his hip pocket is sure to feel the $12,000 fine.
Yesterday Magistrate Belinda Merrin accepted Woods' written guilty plea for unlawfully carrying out work in a declared fish area, finding he did so to try and make profit from the protected marine plants.
Bundaberg Magistrates Court heard on June 2 last year Fisheries field officers were conducting patrols in the Elliott River area after receiving information from the public about a person removing mangroves from the area - a protected fish habitat.
During sentencing, Ms Merrin said Woods was seen loading mangroves into his box trailer before telling officers he had come up from New South Wales but, although he had previously held a permit to collect mangroves in the southern state, had made no enquiries about what was required to do so in Queensland.
The court heard Woods told the officers it was a difficult and lengthy process to obtain a permit in New South Wales and declined to go through the process in Queensland "because he was only getting the one load”.
"He told the officers he intended to varnish it up and sell it,” Ms Merrin said.
In total 193 mangrove stumps of a significant size were found in Woods' trailer.
"The mangroves have been identified as yellow mangroves ... they are significant in a number of aspects ... for the sustainability of the fish in the area,” Ms Merrin said.
"What is also significant is that authorities issued, in order to collect these mangroves, they are very few and have very strict restrictions on them.
"This has led to a lucrative market for this wood.”
The court heard a conservative estimate of the amount of mangrove Woods had, had a wholesale value of $10,000 and a retail value of $20,000.
An internet search showed small pieces of mangrove from 40-50cm were selling for almost $70 for aquariums.
Ms Merrin found Woods clearly had a commercial interest in the mangroves and whether he knew the area was a declared fish area or not was irrelevant as ignorance of the law was no excuse.
While still hefty, the court heard Woods fine of $12,000 was just a fraction of the maximum penalty for the offence, which is $365,700.