A COMMERCIAL fisherman was caught with more than a third of his $38,600 load of scallops undersized, a Hervey Bay court heard.
Mark David Charlton, 42, pleaded guilty in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court to possessing illegal fish.
The court heard the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries stopped Charlton and his boat at Urangan Harbour on March 25 last year after he had been fishing for scallops off the coast of Yeppoon.
Charlton, who holds a commercial skipper's licence, was operating a trawler owned by an unnamed party.
Department of Fisheries and Agriculture investigator Deryk Smith said officers conducting the inspection took random samples of the scallops.
Of those tested, 35.65% had shells smaller than the 9cm regulated size.
Mr Smith said the more than 2000kg of scallops was sold to a local seafood company.
"The scallop meat was sold for $18 per kilogram," he said.
The $38,640.60 from the sale was seized by the fisheries department.
Defence lawyer Christopher Thompson said some of the undersized scallops may have been caused by the shells breaking.
He tendered to the court expert advice which said the scallops found in the Yeppoon area are known for having a more brittle edge.
Mr Thompson also tendered photographs which showed a large number of broken shells on the bottom of the trawler after the scallops had been removed.
He said Charlton understood he was at fault.
"He knows that he should have been paying more attention to what was getting through," he said.
Magistrate Graham Hillan said it was clear Charlton had possession of a large number of undersized scallops.
"It was five times the amount allowed undersized," he said.
Charlton was fined $12,500 and ordered to pay $86.60 in court costs.
Mr Hillan ordered the proceeds from scallop meat be forfeited to the Crown.
The fine was referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Register.