Tuna fisherman fined for dumping 46km-long fishing line into the ocean
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
7 June 2013
A Sydney-based tuna fisherman today faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court and admitted to dumping a commercial fishing line approximately 46 kilometres long into the sea off the coast of Mooloolaba in Queensland.
Mr Luke Ruttley, 32, of Sydney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 10A of the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 which prohibits the dumping of waste from any vessel into Australian waters.
The offence was detected through the strict monitoring and inspection arrangements the Australian Government has in place.
Mr Ruttley was convicted of the offence and received a fine of $2000.
In handing down the sentence, the magistrate took into account the fact that Mr Ruttley had no previous criminal history and was a young man of otherwise good character. It was also taken into account that Mr Ruttley was very cooperative through the course of the federal environment department's investigations.
Mr Ruttley now owns his own fishing business where he has put in place a Waste Management Plan that he instructs his employees to strictly adhere to—something which the magistrate also considered in determining the sentence.
If stretched out on Queensland soil, the fishing line Mr Ruttley dumped into the ocean would extend from Brisbane to Caboolture. It was 3.2 millimetres thick and was made out of high-strength and highly-durable plastic, with a breaking point that is greater than 400 kilograms.
Under Australian law, as well as international conventions, plastics are prohibited from being dumped at sea.
Plastic materials can last for decades in the sea and poses a risk to human safety because they can become entangled in the propellers of ships.
Plastics also pose a major and serious threat to marine life because they can become entangled causing injury and death. They can also be ingested by marine animals and cause those animals to die a slow and painful death.
The waters off the coast of Mooloolaba are home to many endangered species such as the humpback whale, southern right whale, loggerhead turtle, leatherback turtle, and many migratory birds, including the Gould's petrel and southern giant-petrel.
Plastic waste, such as the massive fishing line Mr Ruttley dumped into the ocean, are a serious threat to these species, and many other species listed as vulnerable under Australia's national environmental law.
For example, bottlenose dolphins, southern right whales, as well as other whale and dolphin species are known to have been injured or killed by discarded fishing lines.
Harmful marine waste, such as fishing nets or lines floating in the ocean, are also known to be a threat to the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtles—which breed and nest in the region.