More illegal fishing “threatens” Whitsunday reefs
AUTHORITIES are disappointed after more illegal fishing offences were detected over the last two weeks which "threaten" the Great Barrier Reef.
Despite nine offences being detected over the Easter long weekend in the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has since detected seven other illegal fishing offences.
Statistics from GBRMPA revealed ongoing on-water and aerial patrols had detected an additional five vessels fishing in no-take green zones, plus another two offences that "undermined the benefits of zoning".
A GBRMPA spokeswoman said the no-take green zone offences included trolling and bottom fishing and there was also a detection of a vessel fishing in a preservation zone, which was the no access area at Eshelby Island.
GBRMPA also found one instance of spearfishing in a Public Appreciation Special Management Area.
The spokeswoman said the Whitsundays' Public Appreciation Special Management Area extends around most of the central Whitsunday Island Group.
"(It) provides an additional layer of protection over yellow (conservation) zones," she said.
"This means activities like spearfishing, commercial aquarium fish collecting, coral harvesting, beachworm harvesting, and aquaculture are not allowed."
GBRMPA field management director Chris Cochrane said the offences were another reminder for people heading out in the marine park to know the rules and cross check their location.
"As well as understanding that fishing is not allowed in no-take green zones, it's important to know what the other zones mean," he said.
"Zoning is in place to not only protect the Reef, but also its culture, heritage and the local livelihoods that depend on it.
"With ongoing impacts like mass coral bleaching, every illegal activity has the ability to threaten the health of the Reef and we all need to do our bit to protect it."
Mr Cochrane previously said there was "no excuse" for people being caught out, with GBRMPA providing resources to help all skippers know where they are allowed to fish.
The authority has even released a smart phone app which uses your GPS location to tell fishers if they are in an approved zone.
The free Eye on the Reef app works outside of mobile range to pinpoint the on-water location, identify the zone, and show the relevant rules that apply.
"The easiest way to avoid an offence is understanding what the rules are, adequately planning and using the tools that we have on hand," he said.