Dedicated on-water and aerial patrols were ramped up over the weekend, with 13 incidents of illegal recreational line fishing detected in no-take green zones in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The illegal activity was detected during the day and night, as fishers took advantage of the good weather over the weekend.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Officers on the Reef Ranger field operations vessel caught a number of poachers at night in the no-take zone at Beaver and Taylor reefs, offshore from Mission Beach. This area was severely impacted by the 2017 coral bleaching event.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Field Management director Chris Cochrane said it was important Marine Park users knew the rules before heading out on the water.
“Poachers, such as those caught on the weekend, who choose to fish in a no-take green zones could receive a $2100 fine and face prosecution,” Mr Cochrane said.
“The effects of poaching gradually add up — every fisher who takes fish from a green zone has a negative impact on the health of the Reef.
“We’re taking a no-tolerance approach to fishers who poach from no-take areas. Given the recent pressures on the Reef it’s crucial we all do our bit to help protect the region.
”We have outlinined where patrols will be focussing efforts, however fishers continue to disregard the zoning rules.
“We’re also using education to help fishers understand the importance of green zones and how they help to restock the areas open to fishing.”
Green zones make up about a third of the Marine Park and are designed to help protect and conserve the biodiversity — the variety of plants, animals and habitats — of the ecosystem.
Research shows zoning — which came into effect in 2004 — is having a positive impact on biodiversity with more and bigger fish being found in no-take zones, producing a spill-over effect of fish to areas open to fishing.
Members of the public can do their bit to help protect the Reef by reporting suspected illegal fishing to 1800 380 048 (24 hours) or via an online incident report form.
Free zoning maps are available online or at bait and tackle shops, visitor information centres, ship chandlers and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices.