WHILE surveillance vessels are out in force over the Christmas period targeting illegal fishing on the Great Barrier Reef, community members are being urged to help to protect the World Heritage Area by being the eyes and ears on the water.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management director Chris Cochrane said the Reef belonged to everyone and reporting suspected illegal activities was an important part of protecting fish, animals, habitats and heritage. “The Marine Park Authority has a strong commitment to protecting the World Heritage Area from illegal activities, including poaching from protected Marine National Park zones (green zones),” he said. “Boaties can expect to see vessel, aircraft and land-based patrols, particularly at hot spots such as shoals and wrecks at night. Local knowledge and observations by marine park users are important in helping to ensure we effectively target our compliance resources at trouble spots, so we strongly encourage members of the public to report any suspected illegal activities they see.”
Mr Cochrane said abiding by zoning rules was critical for protecting the ecosystem and conserving biodiversity. “Scientific research shows breeding fish that live in green zones play an important role in supplying their offspring to areas open to fishing,” he said. Poaching those breeders steals from everyone and ultimately impacts on the catches of honest fishers.”
All reports of suspected illegal activities in the Marine Park are taken seriously and are followed up by compliance teams. Fishers caught poaching in a green zone risk an $1800 fine or prosecution in court. A recreational fisher who was recently prosecuted in court was convicted and fined $4000.
“Make sure you know where you are at all times when on the water,” Mr Cochrane said. “Use a GPS unit and cross check your location with a free zoning map. If you can display zones on your GPS unit, make sure you know how they are displayed before you head out.”