Two men were fined in Summary Court after pleading guilty with explanation to a marine conservation offence.
The explanation given on behalf of James Samuel Ebanks and Hosman W. McKenzie was that they did not know the hook stick they were using was illegal.
‘They were not aware – and probably a lot of people are not aware – of items that come under the Marine Conservation legislation,’ Defence Attorney John Furniss told the court.
He acknowledged that their explanation did not amount to a defence.
The men had entered their plea to the charge of taking marine life with an unlicensed speargun. They admitted taking 11 lobsters with the illegal implement on 14 January 2004.
They also pleaded guilty to taking more than the legal limit of three in 24 hours.
They pleaded not guilty to taking marine life from a marine park off Seven Mile Beach.
The matter was set for trial before Magistrate Grace Donalds. However, after the pleas and explanation, Crown Counsel Marlene Smith indicated those pleas were acceptable.
Mr. Furniss offered apologies on behalf of both defendants. He pointed out that they had come to court on a number of occasions and had lost work each time.
The magistrate noted that Ebanks had two previous convictions, one for conch and one for lobster, in the 1990s.
She then imposed a sentence of six months, suspended for two years, on Ebanks and fined him $750 for taking marine life with the unlicensed speargun.
McKenzie had no previous marine conservation offences. He was fined $500.
No separate penalties were imposed for the other offences to which the men pleaded guilty.
Marine Enforcement Officer Mark Orr explained the definition of speargun under the Marine Conservation Law.
Spearguns include mechanical or pneumatic spear guns, hook sticks, Hawaiian slings, pole spears, stick spears, harpoons and rods.
They also include any device with a pointed end that may be used to impale, stab or pierce any marine life.
The definition of speargun does not include what is locally referred to as a striker. Mr. Orr said a striker is a long wooden pole, no shorter than 10 feet and with no more than two barb-less prongs attached to one end.
Prongs without barbs do not pierce marine life, he noted. Strikers are traditionally used for picking up conch by men in boats who locate the conch by looking through a water glass, which is a short-sided box with a glass bottom.
Hook sticks do pierce marine life, Mr. Orr said.