Figures released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) show continued dedicated compliance patrols, a new patrol vessel and coordinated multi-agency surveillance operations detected more than 500 recreational fishing offences in the Marine Park over the past year.
In 2015–16, 532 recreational fishing offences were detected among 1240 reported breaches of Commonwealth and state laws in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, covering a variety of activities.
The number of reported breaches marked an increase on the previous year’s figure of 1161, while the level of recreational fishing offences remained consistent (538 in 2014–15).
GBRMPA field management director Richard Quincey said the most common offences were zoning breaches by recreational fishers.
“Most of the recreational fishing offences relate to line fishing and spearfishing in Marine National Park Zones, known as green zones,” Mr Quincey said.
“In response, we’ve increased compliance patrols from the air, land and sea during high risk periods, resulting in a large number of detections of illegal fishing activity.”
In 2015–16, recreational fishing offences in the Commonwealth jurisdiction included:
- Townsville–Whitsunday region: 179 line fishing offences and 24 spearfishing offences
- Mackay–Capricorn region: 128 line fishing offences and 31 spearfishing offences
- Cairns–Cooktown region: 118 line fishing offences and 30 spearfishing offences.
Mr Quincey said court prosecutions of commercial fishers during the 12-month period also resulted in fines totalling $100,900.
“We take poaching in the Marine Park very seriously — even a relatively small amount of illegal fishing can have serious ecological impacts,” he said.
Over the past 12 months, the capabilities of the Australian and Queensland governments’ joint Field Management Program have been boosted with the addition of a new state-of-the-art patrol vessel. The 10.6 metre Karamea, based in Gladstone, joined the fleet in January 2016 and enhanced rapid response capability and illegal fishing surveillance operations in the Capricorn region.
During 2015–16, the agency continued to step up its enforcement actions against illegal fishing and issued an enforceable direction to a commercial operator who had two previous convictions against the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act. The commercial fisher was directed not to anchor a vessel or operate a vessel at a speed of five knots or less in a Marine National Park Zone (green zone).
Patrols targeting illegal fishing and other suspected offences are conducted through a multi-agency program that includes GBRMPA, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Queensland Police, and Maritime Border Command.
Before heading out on the water, fishers should make sure they have a zoning map, and know the rules for different types of zones. Maps can be obtained from www.gbrmpa.gov.au or by calling (07) 4750 0700.