Recreational fishers poaching from Marine Park no-take green zones between Ayr and Mission Beach are the target of holiday-long compliance blitz.
With the region home to about one-third of all recreational fishing offences in 2016-17, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is cracking down on anyone breaking the zoning rules and threatening the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
Known hotspots include Dunk Island, Orpheus Island, Magnetic Island, Bowling Green Bay and spit, and Kelso Reef.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management director Richard Quincey said while most Marine Park users did their bit to help protect the Reef, there was no excuse for not knowing and not following the zoning rules — particularly with the impacts of illegal fishing amongst the main threats to the World Heritage listed icon.
“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,” Mr Quincey said.
“To tackle this threat, we have aerial and on-water compliance patrols running day and night. If you fish in a green zone you will get caught and can expect a $2100 fine.”
The Great Barrier Reef has experienced significant and widespread impacts over the past two years, including back-to-back summers of mass coral bleaching, a severe tropical cyclone and an ongoing crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak.
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.
To support this, Mr Quincey said it was vital fishers understood how the network of 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 are designed to help protect and conserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem,” Mr Quincey 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.”