Warrnambool's David Wharewhiti jailed for one month over abalone offences

A generic image of Stingray Bay where the abalone were taken.
A generic image of Stingray Bay where the abalone were taken.

A WARRNAMBOOL scuba diver who breached abalone regulations for a third time has been jailed for one month.

David Karahui Wharewhiti, 66, of Lyndoch Avenue, pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to four fisheries charges, including taking undersized abalone, taking more than the catch limit, taking abalone from a marine park and using recreational fishing equipment in a marine park.

Co-accused Premier Sciascia, 24, of Officer Street, Mortlake, was recently fined $3000 for similar offences.

A fisheries prosecutor said that during the afternoon of January 7 Wharewhiti and Sciascia went scuba diving in Stingray Bay.

Sciascia left the water with scuba gear and was soon after followed by Wharewhiti who had a catch bag with 20 abalone, double the limit , in the bag ​and three were undersized.

All the scuba diving gear was seized ​by fisheries officers ​and forfeited by the magistrate.

Wharewhiti told fisheries officers the abalone were for a barbecue, he had planned to measure the abalone and had no idea​ it was a marine sanctuary. 

A fisheries officer said the abalone were valued at ​up to $400.

Defence counsel ​​Marcus Langlois said his client was aware of the consequences and should have known better as he had two prior court appearances for ​similar offences.

Magistrate Cynthia Toose said the prior offences were very concerning, the new charges involved both undersized abalone and ​exceeding the catch limit and deterrence, both specific and general​,​ w​ere key sentencing considerations.

She jailed Wharewhiti for one month, forfeited the scuba gear and imposed costs of $130.

In addition Wharewhiti was named a prohibited person for five years, banning him from possessing any abalone, having an abalone tool, from being within one kilometre of a marine sanctuary or engaging in abalone fishing.

Ms Toose said that in her view jail had to be imposed to send a message to the community about protecting a limited and valuable source.

Wharewhiti appealed against the severity of the sentence imposed, was released on bail and an appeal will be heard in the Warrnambool County Court on a date to be fixed.