Nabbed at night — cover of darkness no match for surveillance

Shared intelligence, night-time radar technology and careful planning led to a covert commercial illegal fishing activity being exposed in the central Queensland region.

The Rockhampton Magistrate Court recently convicted and fined the commercial operator $10,000 after he pleaded guilty to fishing in the no-take Marine National Park zone offshore Cape Clinton, north of Yeppoon.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Gladstone-based compliance team is focusing on all fishers poaching from no-take green zones — particularly at night — using advanced on-water surveillance techniques to detect concealed offenders in the act.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority assistant director surveillance Nick Berding said this detection and successful prosecution reflected the seriousness of the offence and impact that illegal fishing has on the Great Barrier Reef.

“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 no-take green zones and won’t get detected — this is clearly not the case,” Mr Berding said.

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

“The vessels also have state-of-the-art 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.”

Mr Berding said this detection resulted from a multi-agency approach using aerial and on-water assets, with patrols continuing to target areas where intelligence shows both recreational and commercial fishers are intentionally and consistently fishing illegally.

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

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

Marine parks visitors are urged to report suspected illegal fishing activity anonymously via the Authority’s free 24-hour hotline: 1800 380 048 or online at www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident.

Every report is taken seriously and contributes to protecting the Reef against the ongoing threat of illegal fishing.

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Contact: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Media team | (07) 4750 0846 | media@gbrmpa.gov.au | Twitter:@gbrmarinepark