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School holiday blitz: Rule-breakers caught, responsible fishers thanked

Ramped-up compliance patrols over the September school holiday period and October long weekend detected 78 recreational fishing offences in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Aerial and on-water patrols ran day and night targeting known non-compliance hotspots in the Capricorn Coast, Whitsundays, Mackay, Townsville, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Cairns areas.

Most reported offences (69) were for poaching from no-take green zones – including bottom line fishing, trolling and spearfishing – while other offences included excess lines in a yellow (conservation park) zone (7), and two cases of fishing in the scientific research zone at Orpheus Island, which requires a permit.

The Townsville and Cairns areas saw the most illegal recreational fishing, with 27 offences for each region recorded over the two weeks. Most of the Townsville activity was detected by helicopter surveillance. The Whitsundays region was the source of 15 offences, followed by Mackay–Capricorn Coast with seven offences.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority field management director Chris Cochrane said the recent illegal activities highlighted how important it was for marine parks users to know their zoning rules, know how their GPS units displayed zoning and understand what’s allowed before heading out on the water.

“We had some fantastic weather over the school holiday period and long weekend — it was great to see so many people enjoying the marine parks and doing the right thing,” Mr Cochrane said.

“Unfortunately, there is always a percentage who don’t follow the zoning rules — despite our warnings that we are out and about in the Marine Park — and this number of offences is presenting an unacceptable risk to the health of the Reef.

“Poaching is not only unfair to the people who value the marine parks and do the right thing, but this illegal activity also threatens the ongoing resilience of the Reef and its ability to recover and support fish stocks into the future — which is particularly critical following two consecutive years of coral bleaching.”

Members of the public can help to protect the Reef by reporting suspected illegal fishing and other activities to 24-hour hotline 1800 380 048 or via an online incident report form.

Free zoning maps are available at bait and tackle shops, visitor information centres, ship chandlers, and Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol offices; or by calling (07) 4750 0700.