Amnesty allows fishing on Reef – A SECRET six-month amnesty on illegal recreational fishing in the Great Barrier Reef was tolerated by the authority charged with protecting the world heritage-listed icon.
The amnesty on amateur anglers resulted in more than half those caught fishing in the first 12 months of the Reef’s new “green zones” being let off.
While no such leniency was shown to commercial operators, detections of professional anglers dropped in 2004-05 despite a seven-fold increase in area of the Reef now off limits.
The unofficial amnesty on issuing recreational anglers with fines coincided with last year’s federal election at which the fledgling Fishing Party polled 30,000 Senate votes. The party, marketed as the political voice of recreational fishing, gave its preferences to the Nationals which helped the Coalition win a Senate majority.
A review of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which was announced last week, was central to the preference deal.
Figures released to The Courier-Mail by GBRMPA, reveal there were 194 recreational fishing offences detected in 2004-05. This compares with 44 the previous year when no-take zones covered just 4.7 per cent of the Reef.
In 105 cases an “advisory letter” was issued to the offender while seven anglers have since been fined between $750 and $2000.
The remaining offence detections are either still be investigated, before the courts or have been abandoned.
A GBRMPA spokesman said the amnesty had helped educate local and visiting anglers about where the complex range of boundaries lay.
“An enhanced surveillance presence in inshore areas is a significant factor to this increase (in offences detected),” he said.
While unaware of the amnesty, Fishing Party spokesman Kevin Collins said it was fair and reasonable. However, he rejected the authority’s view that anglers knew the boundaries, pointing out a recent State Government survey showing 42 per cent of people had stopped fishing instead.
From: By Steven Wardill