Increased Reef patrols catching out illegal fishing at night

Increased surveillance in the southern Great Barrier Reef means if you fish illegally in no-take green zones you will get caught regardless of the time of day.

Night-time patrols recently spotted two vessels fishing illegally in waters in the Eastern Warrego’s, off Seventeen Seventy.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s newly-established compliance team based in Gladstone are focusing on fishers poaching from no-take green zones, particularly at night.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority assistant director surveillance Chris Cochrane said patrols continued to target areas where recreational fishers were intentionally and consistently fishing illegally.

“While most people out in the marine parks are doing the right thing and following the zoning rules, some fishers believe they can poach at night from green zones and won’t get detected. We are intent on dispelling this belief,” Mr Cochrane said.

“Modern patrol vessels — designed to target poachers that threaten the health of the Reef — travel at high speed, operate in offshore areas, and carry out night operations.

“The vessels also have “over-the-horizon” radars to locate and track small vessels day or night, which is very useful in locating fishers who turn off their lights to avoid being caught in no-take zones.”

The two recent night time detections in no-take areas in the Eastern Warrego’s are currently under investigation, with a view to the issuing of fines where sufficient evidence exists.

Mr Cochrane said those caught fishing in a green zone can expect a $2100 infringement notice, or potential prosecution in court.

“Great Barrier Reef Marine Park visitors should know where they are going and what’s allowed before heading onto the water or islands,” he said.

“Boaties should use a GPS unit, know how zones are displayed on it, and cross-check their location with a free zoning map.

“The Authority’s Eye on the Reef app also provides zoning information — the app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.”

Patrols are conducted throughout the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by the Authority and Reef Joint Field management Program partners Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

These are supported by partners including Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Maritime Border Command, Queensland Water Police, and Maritime Safety Queensland.