Great Barrier Reef poachers fined and convicted

Marine parks helicopter patrols across North Queensland are continuing to catch fishers out poaching in green zones, with several offenders fined and convicted last month.

A series of no-take green zone poaching offences recently went before the Cairns, Townsville and Mackay Magistrate Courts, with fines up to $2850 and four convictions recorded — three out of the four were detected by aerial surveillance.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s compliance assistant director Andrew Simpson said patrols operated day and night from the air and water to target illegal activity and protect the Great Barrier Reef, but the Reef also relied on the whole community doing the right thing.

“It’s really important all commercial or recreational fishers know where they are in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and what’s allowed there,” Mr Simpson said.

“Science is telling us that zoning is working to protect the Great Barrier Reef and contributes significantly towards replenishing fish stocks in areas open to fishing.”

The Marine Park Authority is calling on the community to do its part to protect its patch by reporting suspected illegal fishing to a free 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048 or at www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident. Reports can be made anonymously and every report is followed-up.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­Poachers by region

Cairns Magistrates Court

  • A commercial charter fishing vessel allowed people on board to fish in a no-take green zone near Hastings Reef in October last year. The offence was detected by a marine parks helicopter patrol and resulted in a $2000 fine and conviction on 16 July 2019.
  • An offender was caught trolling from a commercial fishing vessel in a no-take green zone near Cape Melville in September last year. The offence was detected by a marine parks helicopter patrol and resulted in a $1500 fine and conviction on 16 July 2019.

Townsville Magistrates Court

  • The master of a primary commercial fishing vessel was detected for a number of illegal activities in October last year, including having two dories unattached in a no-take green zone, resisting public officers and refusing to provide information. The offence was detected by a marine parks helicopter patrol and resulted in a total fine of $2850 on 18 July 2019. The two dory operators had previously been convicted and fined $1200 each for related offences.

Mackay Magistrates Court

  • A recreational fisher was fined for fishing in a no-take green zone at Brampton Island in July 2018, but failed to pay the fine. The matter went to court, but the defendant failed to appear, so it was dealt with ex parte. The result was a $2100 fine and conviction on 23 July 2019. The offence was detected by a marine parks patrol vessel.