Illegal fishers are bing targeted. PICTURE: JULIANA RESTREPO VILLEGAS
Illegal fishers are bing targeted. PICTURE: JULIANA RESTREPO VILLEGAS

Why illegal fishers on the reef are about to get caught

COMPLIANCE patrols will be out in force protecting the Great Barrier Reef this school holidays.

Patrols will be run day and night and focus heavily on known illegal fishing areas.

Reef authorities are calling on recreational fishers to follow the law when visiting the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, following an increase of 11 per cent in illegal fishing from the same period last year - the highest number of annual recreational fishing offences ever recorded.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Reef Joint Field Management Program director Chris Cochrane said good weather, cheaper fuel costs and restrictions on other recreational activities had created a perfect melting pot for increased infringements.

"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."

Mr Cochrane said there were a number of actions fishers could take to ensure they were within guidelines.

"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," he said.

"GPS plotters and free zoning maps are also available with information on the zoning rules, which have been in place in the Marine Park since 2004 and include a widely publicised network of no-take areas."

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service acting regional director for the Great Barrier Reef and Marine Park Region Tina Alderson said fishers who neglect the zoning rules, intentionally or not, 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."

More information about the app can be found on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website at https://bit.ly/3mieqLr.

Suspected illegal activity can be reported to 24-hour free hotline 1800 380 048, or online at https://bit.ly/3kf1GmM.