Record numbers of illegal fishers caught
PATROLS in illegal fishing hot spots on the Great Barrier Reef will be stepped up during the September school holidays and the October long weekend, targeting the 34 per-cent of the reef that are "no take areas".
The highest number of illegal fishing offences ever recorded on the reef have occurred over the past year, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority GBRMPA said.
GBRMPA Reef Joint Field Program Director Chris Cochrane said restrictions on recreational activity, cheaper fuel and great weather had seen an increase in recreational fishing on the reef.
Mr Cochrane encouraged all people going fishing on the reef to download the "Eye on the Reef" app, which clearly identifies "no take areas".
"We've seen unprecedented recreational fishing use in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area due to weather and other social changes and, unfortunately, also the highest number of illegal fishing offences," he said.
"We know at least 704 people visited the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area either without adequate information on the rules or with an assumption they could avoid our patrols - when, in fact, there is more information and more patrols in place than ever.
"The message is simple - know the law and follow it."
"Marine Park rules are ultimately in place to aid the resilience of the reef and ensure we can continue to enjoy the reef into the future.
"Before leaving home, fishers should download the free Eye on the Reef app, which is particularly useful as it works outside of mobile range to pinpoint on-water location, identify the zone, and the rules that apply."
Free zoning maps and GPS plotter details, which have been in place since 2004, are available with the information on the zoning rules.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Great Barrier Reef and Marine Park acting regional director Tina Alderson said illegal fishing undermined the health of the reef.
"Earlier this year, the Great Barrier Reef experienced another mass bleaching event and it continues to be important everyone who visits the reef considers the role they play in protecting the environment," she said.
"Sixty-six per cent of the reef is open to fishing in the Marine Park - with so many areas open there is no need to fish in no-take areas.
"Marine parks compliance patrols will be out in force for the upcoming September school holidays and the October long weekend. Patrols are day and night, in the air and on the water, particularly at known illegal fishing hot spots."
For more information on the app visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website.