Reef crack down nets 54 illegal fishing offences during festive period

Fifty-four illegal recreational fishing offences were detected in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park over the six week Christmas holiday period, according to figures released today by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Over half (35) were for poaching in no-take green zones. The Cairns area saw the most illegal recreational fishing, with 28 offences over the six weeks.

Overall, the rate of illegal activity was down on last year’s offences during the school holiday period.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management assistant director Andrew Simpson said it was encouraging to see fishers had taken notice of a recent education and compliance blitz.

“It’s good to see more people taking poaching seriously,” he said.

“We ran a dedicated campaign in the Townsville area so fishers were aware patrols were on the water day and night as part of our no tolerance approach to illegal fishing — there is no excuse if you fish in a green zone you will get caught and risk a $2100 fine.”

In addition to poaching from no-take areas, there were 10 instances of excess fishing lines in yellow (conservation) zones and seven incidents of illegal spearfishing in public appreciation zones.

Two offences of fishing in the scientific research zone occurred at One Tree Island.

While most illegal activity occurred near Cairns, Townsville recorded 13 offences and the Whitsunday region recorded nine, followed by Mackay–Capricorn Coast with four offences.

A master of a recreational fishing vessel was recently fined $4000 in the Gladstone Magistrate Court. The offender was in charge of the vessel, from which others were fishing, when it was detected inside a no-take green zone near Lady Elliot Island. The master pleaded guilty to the offence.

“Everyone has a responsibility to help protect the Great Barrier Reef and fishers are reminded to know where they are fishing and what’s allowed at all times,” Mr Simpson said.

“Free zoning maps are available. Fishers can use a GPS to keep an eye on where they are, but it is recommended to always cross check the location with a zoning map. It’s important to know how zones are displayed on their GPS.”

This dramatically enhanced focus on compliance is one of 10 top key initiatives outlined in the Reef Blueprint for Resilience to aid recovery and help protect the Reef.

The Marine Park Authority recently received $4.9 million from the Australian Government to put more field officers on the water, improving compliance, providing early warning of further bleaching and managing threats such as crown-of-thorns starfish.

Free zoning maps are available at bait and tackle shops, visitor centres and ship chandlers.

Maps are also available from Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices; or by calling 1800 990 177 or visiting

Any suspected illegal activity can be reported to the free 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048, or via an online incident report form.