Yachtie catch of the day

Fined for hav­ing fish­ing line dan­gling from his ves­sel in green zone

Townsville Bulletin - - Talk Of North - By DANIEL BATE­MAN

PETERAs­ton has wan­dered the oceans for decades, but never imag­ined he’d end up as the catch of the day.

As he had done hun­dreds of times in the past, the vet­eran yachts­man had a line drag­ging from his yacht on a trip to Hinch­in­brook Is­land last year.

‘‘I’ve sailed hun­dreds of thou­sands of miles around the world and ev­ery­where I’ve been I’ve drawn a line,’’ he said.

‘‘When I catch some­thing, I usu­ally drag the line in.’’

But un­for­tu­nately Mr As­ton’s yacht drifted into a Great Bar­rier Reef marine park green zone.

He was sur­prised to be in­ter­rupted by a fish­eries of­fi­cer.

‘‘It was a sunny day and I was read­ing a book in the cock­pit. Then this guy came along­side me and told me I had a line out.

‘‘He took pho­tos as ev­i­dence against me.’’

Mr As­ton soon found him­self sum­monsed to court, where a mag­is­trate found him guilty of breach­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park Act.

The re­tired sailor was con­victed and fined $2000 for his mis­take.

Mr As­ton said he had never been con­victed of any­thing in his life, at the most a traf­fic fine.

‘‘I sup­port the gen­eral prin­ci­ple be­hind the zones, and I know I shouldn’t have been drag­ging a line from my yacht,’’ he said.

‘‘But I didn’t know. I had been away (from Queens­land) for so long and the only chart I had on board was not up to date.’’

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Ian Camp­bell last week an­nounced amend­ments to the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park penalty sys­tem that would not see recre­ational fish­er­men con­victed for their mis­takes.

He said the amended sys­tem would not be ret­ro­spec­tive, with penal­ties de­ter­mined un­der the pre­vi­ous sys­tem re­main­ing.

Mr As­ton said the pun­ish­ment needed to fit the crime, and the leg­is­la­tion needed to be re­versed.

‘‘The idea of hav­ing th­ese amend­ments from now on and not ret­ro­spec­tive, I’ll do any­thing I can to fix it,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve even writ­ten to Sen­a­tor Camp­bell my­self.’’

The world­wide sailor said he was doubt­ful he would ever fish again.

Photo:EVANMORGAN HXE11672

GIV­ING FISH­ING AWAY . . . Peter As­ton on his yacht Il­ly­whacker

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