A GLADSTONE crabber told court "there are no honest fishermen", and he had to steal other people's crab pots to compensate for his own stolen gear.
Commercial fisherman Suny Platen pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court to five charges of unlawfully interfering with fishing apparatus, after being caught red-handed on April 14.
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officer Neil Conway said QBFP officers stopped a boat at Gladstone Marina about 1.30am, and found Platen and two other men with 19 crab pots containing 14 live crabs.
The pots and their floats were marked with commercial fishing symbols not belonging to Platen.
Mr Conway said the other two men were not charged because Platen led them to believe the pots were his.
Platen also told officers the pots, worth $50-80 alone, without the crabs, were his.
The crabs, which vary in value dependent on grade and market price, could have been worth anywhere between $13-50 per kg.
Officers seized the pots, using the symbols to find their owners and releasing the crabs.
Mr Conway said as a commercial fisherman, Platen should have known better.
Platen said crabbing was a "cut-throat industry", and he acted after 22 of his own pots were stolen over two nights.
"I've had my pots go missing, my car smashed ... it's a savage game," Platen said.
"There are no honest fishermen.
"If a fisherman tells you he's honest, he's full of it."
Platen said it was only by chance he was the one caught.
Magistrate Melanie Ho said she had heard about complaints of stolen crab pots and was aware of the "sensitivity of the matter".
Platen didn't deny his wrongdoing, but said next time his pots were stolen, he would contact QBFP instead.
"I took it into my own hands and I shouldn't have," he said.
"It's not happening again, that's for sure."
Ms Ho fined Platen $7000 for the five offences.
No conviction was recorded and Platen retained his commercial fishing licence.