A Cairns prawn trawler operator has been fined $15,000 for fishing in a green zone in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park after a monitoring system tracked the vessel’s movements.
The Cairns Magistrates Court convicted the operator last week after an investigation found the operator had trawled near Lookout Point off Cooktown in June 2015.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority investigated the case under the Great Barrier Marine Park Act 1975 which prohibits fishing in green zone (no-take) areas.
Field management director Richard Quincey said the substantial fine imposed by the court indicated the seriousness of the offence.
“Green zones are in place for a very good reason, and that’s to protect the biodiversity of the Marine Park — which is particularly critical in the wake of the coral bleaching event,” Mr Quincey said.
“What this case highlights is that we have a range of tools at our disposal, including increasing levels of technology that allow us to collect the evidence we need to prosecute those who ignore the rules.
“In this case, the vessel monitoring system, operated by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries on trawlers, enabled us to track the movements of the vessel at regular points.”
Mr Quincey said reducing illegal fishing in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was a high priority for the agency and that it would continue to use a variety of strategies.
“One of the real benefits of the monitoring technology is that we have the means to increase the level of tracking if there is suspicion of illegal activity,” he said.
“This and other types of surveillance, as well as field operations, intelligence and strong coordination between various agencies, means we are able to continually hone our operations to catch offenders in the act.”
Anyone with information about illegal fishing can contact the agency at: www.gbrmpa.gov.au/report-an-incident.