Summer compliance blitz: "Fish in a protected zone and you will get caught"

Dedicated on-water and aerial patrols over the Christmas break resulted in 48 incidents of illegal recreational fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, with these breaches threatening the health and resilience of the Reef.

Most of these incidents occurred between 10 December 2016 and 22 January 2017 and related to illegal line fishing and spearfishing in Marine Park restricted or no-take zones from the Daintree in the north to the Capricorn Bunker reefs off Gladstone in the south.

Reports from the public contributed to some interceptions, including an incident at the WWII Catalina aircraft wreck south-east of Cairns, which is in a highly protected green zone and is further safeguarded by a special management area to preserve its heritage values.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Field Management director Richard Quincey said upholding compliance was an important priority for the Authority, particularly given some Marine Park users continued to ignore the rules. The compliance focus on recreational fishing will continue to be strengthened in 2017.

“Welcoming people to the Marine Park is an important part of what we do, however there is no excuse for not knowing and following the rules,” Mr Quincey said.

“Our compliance patrols run day and night. If you fish in a protected zone you will get caught and face an $1800 fine.”

Mr Quincey said there was strong evidence to show zoning contributed to healthy fish stocks and the overall health of the Reef.

“Research indicates the current Marine Park zoning — which came into effect in 2004 — is having a range of positive benefits, including allowing the offspring of fish living in green zones to spill over into other zones where they can be taken,” Mr Quincey said.

“There is also emerging science to suggest that reefs in green zones are more resilient to coral bleaching, coral disease, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and severe weather, and can recover from impacts like cyclones faster than reefs outside green zones.

“It’s vital we respect rules that protect these areas and our iconic Great Barrier Reef more widely, so future generations can also enjoy it.”

Compliance patrolling involves a number of Australian and Queensland agencies, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Queensland Water Police, and Maritime Border Command.

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. Reports can be made anonymously and they are all investigated.

Regional statistics:

  • Cairns/Cooktown Management Area: 17 incidents. Hotspots included Scott Reef, Michaelmas Reef and Green Island
  • Townsville/Whitsunday Management Area: 18 incidents. Hotspots included Family Islands, Townsville area and Whitsunday area
  • Mackay/Capricorn Management Area: 13 incidents. Hotspots included Capricorn Bunkers and Newry Islands

More information about zoning, including zoning maps for download is available online.