Climb­ing num­bers

Il­le­gal fish­ing up by nearly 50% this year

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Chris Lees

IL­LE­GAL fish­ing in the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park has risen al­most 50 per cent this year.

The fig­ures are wor­ry­ing for au­thor­i­ties as the of­fences are plac­ing pres­sure on fish stocks.

In the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year there were 176 recre­ational fish­ing of­fences re­ported in the Townsville/ Whit­sun­day man­age­ment area, from Mis­sion Beach to Midge Point.

This rose to 260 in the past fi­nan­cial year, up 84 in 12 months.

Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park Au­thor­ity field man­age­ment di­rec­tor Richard Quincey said even a rel­a­tively small amount of il­le­gal fish­ing posed an un­ac­cept­able risk to reef health and could have se­ri­ous im­pacts.

“The ef­fects of poach­ing grad­u­ally add up – every fisher who takes fish from a no-take green zone is threat­en­ing the health of the reef,” he said.

“Con­sid­er­ing this – and the on­go­ing im­pacts to the Great Bar­rier Reef – we need for ev­ery­one to take re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect it.”

Mr Quincey said although many an­glers did the right thing by know­ing and fol­low­ing the rules, GBRMPA had a no-tol­er­ance ap­proach to poach­ers.

“If you break the law you can ex­pect to get caught and fined,” he said.

Char­ter fish­ing op­er­a­tor Eddie Rid­dle said although he knew all the rules, as his liveli­hood de­pended on it, some reg­u­la­tions could be con­fus­ing for peo­ple.

“Some­times vis­it­ing an­glers can be caught out with zones,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one I know tries to do the right thing but I do see com­mon mis­de­meanours in a yel­low zone.” But Mr Rid­dle said there was no ex­cuse for an­glers who took un­der­sized fish.

Mr Quincey said GBRMPA ran a range of ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns and pro­vided free zon­ing maps to fish­ers to en­cour­age them to com­ply with the zon­ing rules.

To tar­get il­le­gal fish­ing in the marine park, the 11.5m ves­sel Reef Sentinel is based at Mag­netic Is­land.

“It pa­trols be­tween Cardwell and the Whit­sun­days fo­cus­ing on il­le­gal fish­ing hot spots like Band­jin Reefs, Fara­day Reef, Stan­ley Reef and Wil­son Shoal,” Mr Quincey said.

“This high-speed pa­trol ves­sel is de­signed to tar­get in­ten­tional green zone poach­ing, in­clud­ing night ac­tiv­ity at off­shore reef ar­eas where of­fend­ers be­lieve they can slip un­der the radar and avoid de­tec­tion.”

There are se­ri­ous and ex­pen­sive con­se­quences for peo­ple fish­ing in the wrong place.

Recre­ational an­glers caught fish­ing in a green zone face a $2100 fine. Sus­pected il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity can be re­ported to the free 24-hour hot­line 1800 380 048, or at gbrmpa.gov.au/re­port -an-in­ci­dent.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FISHY BE­HAV­IOUR: Il­le­gal fish­ing in the Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park has risen by al­most 50 per cent this year.

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