Illegal practices on the radar at iconic Cod Hole dive site

Published: 12/12/2014

Tourism operators and recreational visitors to the world-famous Cod Hole dive site near Lizard Island are urged to alert authorities to illegal activities, because of fears the vulnerable and protected potato cod is being put at risk.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has received reports of illegal fishing and ‘fish framing’, which involves tying a line or rope around fish carcasses or fish heads and dangling them over the side of a boat to attract potato cods and other species to the surface.

Popular with scuba divers from around the world, the underwater canyons of Cod Hole in far north Queensland are renowned for their resident groups of large potato cods.

GBRMPA tourism and stewardship director Karen Vohland said the site is a no-anchoring area, and falls within a green zone, meaning fishing is not permitted.

“While most visitors to the area are doing the right thing, it would appear there may be a small number ignoring the rules,” said Ms Vohland.

“Recent reports suggest Cod Hole has become a target for illegal fishing and fish framing, with at least two potato cods spotted with a fishing line stuck in their gills.

“Potato cods are particularly vulnerable because they’re extremely friendly, and often follow divers around like puppies. However, these creatures, which can live for decades, don’t mature until late in life, meaning the loss of a potato cod can impact on the size of the local population.

“Tourism operators and recreational visitors to Cod Hole can help us tackle this by reporting illegal activities and providing us with any relevant information.”

Field management rangers will also step up surveillance of Cod Hole and the surrounding Ribbon Reefs, particularly during the 2015 game fishing season.

Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators chief executive Col McKenzie said it was important to protect one of the most iconic dive regions on the Great Barrier Reef, along with its famous residents.

“Visitors should be aware that fish framing can be a harmful practice,” he said.

“Potato cod feed by swallowing their prey whole, meaning fishing lines around the fish frame disappear down their gullet. These lines can ultimately get stuck in their stomach or gills, which can prove fatal.”

Cairns Professional Game Fishing Association president Daniel McCarthy urged fishers to abide by the zoning rules.

“For visitors and industry alike to enjoy highly valued and protected places like Cod Hole, everyone needs to play by the rules,” Mr McCarthy said.

“As responsible Marine Park users, if we all respect each other’s activities we can all thrive into the future.”

Reports of suspected illegal activities can be made on the GBRMPA website at

Name: GBRMPA media
Contact: (07) 4750 0846