Aerial surveillance snags poachers

Four fishers received large fines in central Queensland for illegal fishing-related offences in no-take green zones of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Mackay Magistrates Court recorded the convictions last week, after aerial surveillance patrols detected the commercial and recreational vessels in breach of Marine Park zoning rules.

Each of those convicted copped hefty fines, including a Mackay dory operator, two primary commercial fishing vessel operators and a Brisbane man caught fishing from his yacht in a Whitsundays no-take green zone.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority compliance and field operations assistant director Andrew Simpson said any illegal fishing was unacceptable due to the threat it posed to the health of the Reef and its recovery.

“Every time someone fishes illegally, whether it’s for commercial or recreational purposes, it undermines the benefits of zoning and puts the health of the Reef in jeopardy,” Mr Simpson said.

“This is why we are taking a no-tolerance approach — if you fish in a green zone you will get caught and can expect a $2100 fine, or to appear in court.”

The magistrate fined the dory operator $5000 for having his dory unattached in a Marine National Park zone off the coast of Mackay, plus the master of the primary commercial fishing vessel was fined $2000.

A second commercial fisher was fined a total of $9000 after the vessel he owned was detected inside a green zone with three other people on board, who were all fishing illegally from the craft.

A recreational fisher, who refused to pay an initial fine and elected to go to court, was also convicted and fined $5000 after being caught fishing from his yacht inside a green zone in the Whitsundays.

The Authority has ramped up its compliance efforts following increased pressures on the Reef, cracking down on illegal fishing hotspots with increased aerial and vessel patrols day and night to catch poachers in the act.

“It’s so important for marine parks users to protect their patch of the Reef and it’s really simple; follow the zoning rules and if you see anyone doing the wrong thing report it,” Mr Simpson said.

People can report suspected illegal fishing activity anonymously via the Authority’s free 24-hour hotline: 1800 380 048 or online. Every report is taken seriously and contributes to protecting the Reef.