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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Patrolling of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is being increased by more than 40% as part of the Federal Government's new $3.4M enforcement and surveillance strategy.
The three year program announced by Environment Minister Robert Hill last October is being directed at tactical and strategic programs to improve the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
"From July to January, with only half of the program implemented, we recorded 38 convictions for offences in the Marine Park. A further 15 matters are currently with the Department of Public Prosecutions for investigation," Senator Hill said. "The offences are predominantly related to fishing in highly protected areas and include both recreational anglers and the commercial industry.
"In addition to possible fines of up to $22,000, fishers caught conducting illegal activity in restricted zones face confiscation of their equipment.
"In the most recent incident, complaints from within the commercial fishing industry initiated an investigation into illegal fishing activity off Innisfail. As a result, fifteen matters relating to illegal commercial fishing are being prepared for prosecution."
Increased surveillance of illegal zones is being provided by a partnership between the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, the Queensland Water Police, the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol and Coastwatch.
"The enhanced capability of Coastwatch based on the latest surveillance technology means that GBRMPA's enforcement activity can now be effectively focussed on known problem areas, based on good intelligence. The message is clear - Commonwealth and State agencies are better coordinated and are working to get the best value and maximum coverage for surveillance," Senator Hill said.
"If you are fishing in a protected area, there is a high chance you will be caught. We will continue our pressure on those undertaking illegal fishing activities and will closely monitor and respond to reports of illegal activity being conducted in these zones.
"Enforcement priorities for the program will be Dugong Protection Areas, illegal line and trawl fishing and shipping offences. Surveillance of the new Marine Parks zoning in the Far Northern Section of the Great Barrier Reef will also be targeted.
"The Commonwealth is proceeding with arrangements to increase the maximum level of fines for illegal fishing in the Park up to $1 million for serious offences following increasing evidence in recent years of illegal fishing.
The million dollar strategy is being implemented immediately and emphasis has been placed on setting up systems which will have a long term impact on the protection of the reef through deterring illegal activity.
Media contact: Rod Bruem, Senator Hill's Office (02) 6277 7640