GBRMPA perform aerial surveillance for illegal fishing near Green Island. Picture: Supplied
GBRMPA perform aerial surveillance for illegal fishing near Green Island. Picture: Supplied

Airlie Beach a ‘hotspot’ for illegal fishing activity

GREAT Barrier Reef authorities have said they were “disappointed” to encounter a high amount of illegal fishing activity over the long weekend.

Despite “multiple warnings” in the lead up to the long weekend, Airlie Beach was a hotspot for illegal recreational fishing, with nine offences detected on Easter Sunday.

The majority of the offences were from angler’s fishing in protected no-take green zones, actions which authorities say can threaten reefs in the Whitsundays.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef (GBRMPA) Joint Field Management Program director Chris Cochrane it was “disappointing” the message wasn’t getting through to some recreational fishers.

He said it appeared the weekend’s infringements were an even split of people who were negligent and didn’t pay attention to the zone they were fishing in, and people who purposely intended to fish in exclusion zones.

“These zones are set up to protect the reefs, and the habitats that surround them,” he said.

“The zones allow for a sanctuary for the ocean ecosystem, and recent studies from James Cook University have shown they are effective in letting the reef bounce back from impacts like coral bleaching and cyclones.

“Our message is if you’re illegally fishing in those zones, or not adhering to the rules of the zones, then you’re directly impacting on the health of the reef.”

Mr Cochrane said the areas off the Whitsundays had been a GBRMPA focus for many years and called it “disappointing” people were ignoring the zoning regulations.

He said there was “no excuse” for people being caught out, with the GBRMPA providing resources to help all skippers know where they are allowed to fish.

The authority has even released a smart phone app which uses your GPS location to tell fishers if they are in an approved zone.

The free Eye on the Reef app works outside of mobile range to pinpoint the on-water location, identify the zone, and show the relevant rules that apply.

“The easiest way to avoid an offence is understanding what the rules are, adequately planning and using the tools that we have on hand,” he said.

“It really comes down to people’s attitudes. Some think they won’t influence that zone by fishing, but it’s a cumulative impact.”

Mr Cochrane said GBRMPA works in conjunction with a number of different organisations, meaning skippers were always at risk of being caught if they fished out of approved zones.

“We have surveillance by boat and air all the time in conjunction with many different partners,” he said.

“Even in an area as big as the Great Barrier Reef we use those resources as effectively as possible.

“We really just want people to take this seriously, and make sure they do the right thing.”


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