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Fishers fined for sanctuary zone offences

TWO recreational fishers have been fined more than $2000 after being apprehended fishing in a Solitary Islands Marine Park sanctuary zone in northern NSW recently.

NSW Department of Primary Industries fisheries officers responded to a community report and apprehended two men fishing from a boat in a southern sanctuary zone. DPI’s manager for the Solitary Islands Marine Park Nicole Strehling said the men were found to have exceeded bag limits and were in possession of undersized fish and a black rockcod – a threatened species that is totally protected in NSW.

“Black rockcod were decimated by overfishing prior to 1983 and have been protected in NSW since that time,” Ms Strehling said. “Thanks to a quick-thinking member of the community, fisheries officers were able to respond in time to release the black rockcod to the water alive.” Sanctuary zone protections benefit a mix of ecologically important areas in the Solitary Islands Marine Park. All animals, plants and their habitats are protected, and only passive, low-impact activities such as snorkelling, scuba-diving and swimming are permitted.

“Protection of these precious areas is having flow-on benefits for adjacent areas,” Ms Strehling said. “Research has shown a significant increase in the number and size of popular fish such as snapper in Solitary Islands Marine Park sanctuary zone areas when compared with locations outside the marine park.”

DPI’s Supervising Fisheries Officer Mr Ian Stockton said community reports often assist in detecting and responding to illegal activity. “Information such as time, location, vessel and vehicle registration numbers, descriptions, and photographs all assist officers to undertake investigations and target offenders,” Mr Stockton said. “Fisheries officers undertake routine patrols of marine park sanctuary zones so anyone fishing in a sanctuary zone will likely be caught.”

For more information on the Solitary Islands Marine Park zones, download the ‘Fish Smart NSW’ App, which provides maps that use your smartphone’s GPS to establish accurate positioning relative to the different marine park zones.

Anyone with information on suspected illegal fishing activity is urged to call the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536 or report illegal fishing activities via the DPI website.

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