The fishers were caught during aerial surveillance undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The fishers were caught during aerial surveillance undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Andrew Gill

Reef raiding fishers cop hefty fines in Mackay court

FOUR commercial and recreational fishers have copped fines for illegal fishing practices in no-take Green Zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The cases were heard in Mackay Magistrates Court last week after aerial surveillance patrols detected the vessels in breach of the park's rules, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Association.

A Mackay dory operator and two primary commercial fishing vessel operators were caught, as well as a Brisbane man caught fishing from his yacht in the Whitsundays.

The operator was fined $5000 for having his dory unattached and the master of a commercial vessel was fined $2000.

A second commercial fisher was fined a total of $9000 after the vessel he owned was detected inside a zone with three other people on board, who were all fishing illegally.

The recreational fisher, who refused to pay an initial fine and elected to go to court, was also fined $5000 after being caught fishing from his yacht inside a zone.

Andrew Simpson, park compliance and field operations assistant director, said illegal fishing posed a threat to the health of the world renowned reef and its recovery.

"Every time someone fishes illegally, whether it's for commercial or recreational purposes, it undermines the benefits of zoning and puts the health of the Reef in jeopardy," Mr Simpson said.

"This is why we are taking a no-tolerance approach - if you fish in a green zone you will get caught and can expect a $2100 fine, or to appear in court."

The authority has been ramping up compliance efforts recently, cracking down on illegal fishing hotspots with aerial and vessel patrols.

"It's so important for marine parks users to protect their patch of the Reef and it's really simple; follow the zoning rules and if you see anyone doing the wrong thing report it," Mr Simpson said.

People can report suspected illegal fishing activity anonymously via the Authority's free 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048.



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