Fishers poaching from no-take green zones at night can expect to have their cover blown by a new high-speed patrol vessel armed with night detection technology.
Joining vessels of similar capabilities in Cairns and Gladstone, the 11.5-metre Reef Sentinel is based at Magnetic Island and will patrol between Cardwell and The Whitsundays, focusing on illegal offshore fishing hotspots like the Bandjin Reefs, Faraday Reef, Stanley Reef and Wilson Shoal.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority compliance field operations manager Chris Cochrane said patrols would target areas where recreational fishers were known to be intentionally and consistently offending.
“While most people out in the marine parks are doing the right thing and following the zoning rules, some fishers believe they can poach at night from green zones and won’t get detected,” Mr Cochrane said.
“This high-speed patrol vessel is designed to target intentional green zone poaching, including at night at offshore reef areas where offenders believe they can slip under the radar and avoid detection.
“With twin 350hp 4-stroke outboard motors, the Reef Sentinel can cover larger distances quickly.
“Over-the-horizon radar capability can locate and track small vessels day or night, which will be very useful in locating fishers in green zones who turn off their lights to avoid being caught.”
Those caught fishing in a green zone can expect a $2100 infringement notice, or potential prosecution in court.
“Any poaching in marine protected areas is treated as a serious offence — the cumulative impacts of illegal fishing can have significant ecological impacts and threaten Reef resilience,” Mr Cochrane said.
“This is particularly concerning following mass bleaching impacts on the Reef during the past two summers. Now more than ever we are asking for cooperation from all Marine Park users.”
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park visitors should know where they are going and what’s allowed before heading onto the water or islands.
Boaties should use a GPS unit, know how zones are displayed on it, and cross check their location with a free zoning map.
Free zoning maps are available at bait and tackle shops, visitor information centres, ship chandlers, and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices; or by calling (07) 4750 0700. Download maps from www.gbrmpa.gov.au.
Members of the public can also help to protect the Reef by reporting suspected illegal fishing and other activities to 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048 or via an online incident report form at www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident.
Other ways to help protect the Reef can be found here: www.gbrmpa.gov.au/visit-the-reef/responsible-reef-practices/fishing.