A recreational fisher’s assumption the cover of darkness would allow him to poach from a no-take zone undetected proved to be a costly mistake, with the north Queensland man recently caught, convicted and fined $1800.
The incident was detected during a night time vessel patrol by Queensland Parks and Wildlife (QPWS) officers inside a no-take Marine National Park Zone (green zone) between Hudson and Bowden Islands offshore Cardwell.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management acting director Chris Cochrane said this court conviction was an important reminder illegal fishing was taken seriously.
“Welcoming people to the Marine Park is important, however there is no excuse for not knowing and following the Marine Park rules,” Mr Cochrane said.
The master of the vessel, a first-time offender, was issued with an infringement notice for $1800. After failing to pay the fine, the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, where the Tully Magistrates Court convicted and fined him.
Mr Cochrane said some fishers incorrectly believed they could get away with illegally fishing at night.
“Marine Park zoning rules apply 24–7. With improvements in surveillance aircraft and vessel capabilities, we can target poaching in marine protected areas day and night,” Mr Cochrane said.
“We’re taking a no-tolerence approach to green zone poaching in light of the recent pressures on the Reef and penalties will increase to $2100 on 1 July 2017. It’s crucial we all do our bit to help protect the Reef.”
Green zones make up about a third of the Marine Park and are designed to help protect and conserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Research shows zoning — which came into effect in 2004 — is making a positive difference to biodiversity with more and bigger fish being found in no-take Marine National Park zones, producing a spill-over effect of fish to areas of the Marine Park open to fishing.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority coordinates vessel patrols with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland Boating and Fisheries, and the Queensland Water Police which target illegal recreational and commercial fishing. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Maritime Border Command conduct aerial surveillance of the Marine Park and drones are now being trialled in compliance operations.
Members of the public can do their bit to help protect the Reef by reporting suspected illegal fishing to 1800 380 048 (24 hours).
Free zoning maps are available on the GBRMPA website or at bait and tackle shops, visitor information centres, ship chandlers and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices.