FINED: Ricki John Savidge leaving the Bundaberg Courthouse.
FINED: Ricki John Savidge leaving the Bundaberg Courthouse. Mike Knott BUNCOURT

Fisherman caught after drifting into protected zone

WHEN border protection officers conducting aerial surveillance of the Great Barrier Reef spotted a boat inside a Marine National Park Zone (green zone), Ricki John Savidge realised his boat was in a no-fish zone.

The 40-year-old recreational fisherman spent September 25, 2014, fishing off the coast of Agnes Water with friends and hadn't realised his boat had drifted inside the green zone boundary.

Crew on board the surveillance plane noticed the stationary boat and saw those on board fishing. They took video footage and photographs and pinpointed the boat's GPS location to be about 1.5km inside the nearest green zone border.

Identified by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authorities as the owner and master of the boat by its registration number, Savidge admitted the group had been anchored near the edge of the green zone and he had not noticed the anchor failed to keep them from drifting away from the legal fishing area.

He said the fishing trip caught six red emperors, two snappers and a number of other fish, but only one or two were caught inside the green zone.

In the Bundaberg Magistrates Court last week the prosecution's case highlighted the importance of the Great Barrier Reef as an ecological fragile area and how enforcing it's protection was expensive and time consuming.

As a former commercial fisherman for 14 years, Magistrate Aaron Simpson said Savidge was better informed than most people of the importance of checking his GPS and charts and staying outside the green zone.

"You really should have known better," he said.

"When you saw the plane it triggered what you had to do, which was to get back into the general area.

"You should have been paying better attention."

Savidge was fined $3500 for fishing in a prohibited zone and ordered to pay $89.80 in court costs.