$15,000 fine for Bass Strait cattle deaths

The captain of a cargo ship has been fined $15,000 over the death of 69 cattle following a Bass Strait crossing in severe weather.

John McGee was at the helm of the Statesman when it left northwest Tasmania for Victoria in January 2016 for an overnight sailing.

McGee last year pleaded guilty to one count of using a method of management likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering.

In sentencing on Wednesday, magistrate Katie Edwards said McGee, a seaman with decades of experience, had placed commercial needs above the needs of the welfare of the cattle.

She said McGee placed the vulnerable animals in a position where they suffered greatly.

"They were subject to extreme weather that resulted in injury, suffocation, shock and distress," Ms Edwards told Burnie Magistrates Court.

"This went on for a period of hours while the vessel was at sea.

"The cows ... were particularly vulnerable. They had nowhere to go. They had no ability to help themselves (and) couldn't be checked on by the crew."

A total of 207 cattle were being transported in pens on the exposed deck of the Statesman, which was hit with three large waves some six-seven metres in size.

Ms Edwards said the cattle at the front of the ship took the brunt of the wind and waves and started "going down".

When the boat arrived in Victoria, some cattle were "stacked on top of each other" and some had cuts, fractures and had suffered hypothermia and shock.

Ten were declared dead and a further 59 had to be put down.

Ms Edwards said it was accepted the weather was worse than forecast and McGee tried to alleviate its effects by changing course and slowing the boat.

Winds of 35 knots, waves of around 2-3 metres, rain and the possibility of a thunderstorm were forecast before the ship left.

The court was told McGee raised concerns about the weather with the livestock buyers and vessel operator pre-voyage and considered conditions to be "on the edge" in regards to setting off.

"The outcome of this voyage was devastating for (McGee)," Ms Edwards said.

"There were a number of external pressures but ultimately it was his decision (to sail).

"(He) had a duty to those animals in his care and control to take all reasonable measures to ensure (their) welfare."