Customs media release
Eye in the sky helps detect illegal activities on the Reef - Friday, 15th May 2009
Media released issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Aerial surveillance by Border Protection Command has been praised for its role in helping protect the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, following a case in the Cairns Magistrates Court yesterday (14 May).
Four fishers pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $14,000 in the Cairns Magistrates Court yesterday after Border Protection Command detected them collecting marine animals in a protected area at the Swains Reefs last year.
The fishers were found to be collecting beche-de-mer (sea cucumber) in the Green Zone, a protected area where no fishing and extractive activities are allowed.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Chairman Russell Reichelt said illegal collecting and fishing could have a serious impact on the entire ecosystem and those who depend on it.
"Illegal collecting and fishing undermines the protection that zoning provides and undermines the efforts of those fishers who are following the rules," he said.
"Sustainable use of the Marine Park is critically important to the future of the marine environment and the many communities and industries that depend on the Reef for their livelihoods.
"A healthy reef is very important for the economy - Great Barrier Reef industries generate $5.4billion to the Australian economy each year.
"In the face of threats like climate change, we all need to make sure we do all we can to ensure this ecosystem remains as healthy as possible and future generations can enjoy it just like we have."
Dr Reichelt said Border Protection Command is among a range of important partners helping keep an eye on the Reef.
"It is great to see marine management and enforcement agencies are working together to detect and stop illegal activity in the World-Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef," he said.
"We commend Border Protection Command for the important role they are playing in helping ensure activities are carried out sustainably and legally on the Great Barrier Reef.
"Given the size of the Marine Park we have a network of partner agencies from both the Australian and Queensland Governments that assist us with the very important task of ensuring the area is used sustainably."
Officers from Queensland Water Police in Gladstone assisted GBRMPA inspectors with search warrants and seizing the fishing dories involved in the incident.
Fishers are encouraged to follow the zoning rules to ensure protected areas can continue to benefit the plants, animals and habitats in the Reef and allow the natural functions of the ecosystem to operate in an undisturbed way.
Early indications are that zoning is working and monitoring reports show fish are increasing in both size and number. North Queensland scientists found a spectacular recovery in coral trout numbers on unfished reefs following the introduction of protected, no-take areas in 2004. They found coral trout numbers rebounded by 31 to 75 per cent on a majority of reefs which had been closed to fishing for as little as 1.5 to 2 years.
Media enquiries: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Lisa Pennisi on (07) 4750 0807.
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