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