TWO abalone poachers from the peninsula have been given prison sentences for trafficking a commercial quantity of the endangered shellfish.
Last Friday in the County Court, Judge Mark Dean jailed Andrew Carpmael, 49, of Rosebud for 18 months with a minimum of nine months. Simon Hillman, of Rye, received a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
Each man pleaded guilty to one charge of trafficking a commercial quantity of abalone.
The judge also banned the pair from having commercial abalone equipment, Carpmael for 10 years and Hillman for three.
Hillman, a professional diver who works at Peninsula Hot Springs near Rye, and Carpmael, a father of two who operates a bed and breakfast on Arthurs Seat and has worked as a naturopath, were arrested by Fisheries Victoria officers near a Chinese restaurant in Melbourne’s west two years ago.
They had just transferred into the vehicle of a co-offender two hessian bags containing about 60 kilograms of abalone with a commercial value of $8000. Diving equipment including camouflaged wetsuits and night-vision googles also was found in their vehicle.
The abalone was taken from waters in East Gippsland and Cape Otway over four months in 2010.
The unnamed co-offender gave evidence against Hillman and Carpmael at an earlier contested committal hearing, and received a wholly suspended sentence for his part in the trade.
It was revealed Hillman and Carpmael had harvested commercial quantities of abalone six times in East Gippsland, and Hillmen had take abalone once from the Cape Otway area.
Judge Dean said each load of abalone weighed between 30 and 60 kilograms.
During his sentencing remarks, the judge said each man had participated in a “sophisticated and illegal abalone harvesting operation for profit”.
Judge Dean said abalone was a valuable natural resource, “the harvest of which is strictly regulated by statute”.
It was revealed Carpmael had two prior convictions related to poaching abalone, including one where he was found with $30,000 worth of the shellfish. Hillman had no related prior convictions.
The maximum penalty for poaching abalone is 10 years in jail.