Failure to pay fine costs recreational fisher $3500 and conviction

A recreational fisher caught poaching from a highly protected no-go zone in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was convicted and fined $3500 in the Tully Magistrates Court after failing to pay his original fine.

A Maritime Border Command aircraft detected the offender fishing in a Preservation (Pink) Zone in the east of Otter Reef offshore from Cardwell.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management assistant director Andrew Simpson said there is no tolerance for failing to follow the zoning rules and threatening the Reef’s health.

“We welcome the result in the Tully Magistrates Court — it’s a timely reminder we have patrols on the water and in the air day and night, and those doing the wrong thing will get caught and risk a hefty fine.”

Mr Simpson said each zone had different rules, with pink zones offering the highest level of protection. Public access in pink zones is restricted and taking fish or other marine species from this area is strictly prohibited.

“Preservation zones are extremely important to the Reef’s biodiversity and, as such, are ‘no-go’ areas. There is no excuse for entering these zones.

“We take poaching in the marine parks very seriously — even a relatively small amount of illegal fishing poses an unacceptable risk to Reef health and can have serious ecological impacts. The effects of poaching gradually add up.”

The master of the vessel originally received a $2160 fine for entering and fishing in a pink zone, however failure to pay saw the matter go before court where a conviction and increased fine of $3500 was awarded.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority coordinates vessel patrols — along with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, and the Queensland Water Police — to target illegal recreational and commercial fishing.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Maritime Border Command conduct aerial surveillance of the Marine Park.

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 at www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident.

Free zoning maps are available at www.gbrmpa.gov.au or at bait and tackle shops, visitor information centres, ship chandlers and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices.

How fishers can help:

  • anonymously report suspected illegal fishing activity: 1800 380 048 or www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident
  • know the marine parks’ zoning rules
  • use a GPS and cross-check it with a free zoning map
  • understand how no-take zones work to safeguard the Reef and fish stocks
  • don’t anchor on coral — find sand
  • avoid taking herbivores like parrotfish, which remove seaweed and provide space for new corals to grow.