Recreational fishers poaching from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park no-take green zones between Yeppoon and the Town of 1770 are the target of an Easter holiday compliance blitz launching today.
About one-third of all recreational fishing offences in 2016–17 occurred in the area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is cracking down on anyone breaking the zoning rules and threatening Reef resilience.
Known hotspots include the Keppel Islands, Curtis Island, Polmaise, Llewellyn, Hoskyn and Fairfax Reefs and no-take green zones adjacent to Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Island.
More visitors to the areas are expected over Easter including some who are from further afield and may be less familiar with zoning rules.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management assistant director Andrew Simpson said while most Marine Park visitors did their bit to help protect the Reef, there was no excuse for not knowing and not following the zoning rules.
“We take poaching in the Marine Park 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 — every fisher who takes fish from a green zone has a negative impact on the health of the Reef,” Mr Simpson said.
“To tackle this threat, day and night on-water and aerial patrols will be ramped up over the Easter holidays in the Gladstone region. You can expect a $2100 fine if you fish in a green zone.”
The enhanced focus on compliance, plus education about the benefits of zoning, forms one of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s pillars to boost resilience throughout the whole Reef system, which has experienced widespread impacts over the past two years.
Mr Simpson said it was vital fishers understood how the network of no-take green zones worked and the importance of following the rules, particularly in high-use areas.
“Green zones make up about a third of the Marine Park and help protect and conserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem,” Mr Simpson said.
“Research indicates zoning arrangements — which came into effect in 2004 — are having positive effects on biodiversity, with the offspring of fish living in green zones ‘spilling over’ into adjacent areas open to fishing.
“Also, longer term monitoring indicates reefs in green zones are more resilient to the impacts of coral disease, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and cyclones, and are able to recover from impacts much faster than adjacent reefs outside green zones.”
Maps are available from the Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices; or by calling 1800 990 177 or visiting www.gbrmpa.gov.au
How fishers can help:
- anonymously report suspected illegal fishing activity: 1800 380 048 or www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-anincident
- 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