Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working with the local north-west communities to stamp out illegal fishing in the Ningaloo Marine Park.
The locals between Red Bluff and North West Cape have reported that public complaints about suspicious fishing activity and concerns around overfishing have been on the rise.
The park was stablished in 1987 and expanded in 2004 to protect the entire reef system.
Last month, DPIRD compliance officers achieved six successful prosecutions in one day in Exmouth Court, with penalties for offenders ranging from $450 to more than $2,409.
To further respond to illegal fishing concerns, an operation was geared up focusing on the Ningaloo Marine Park and targeting rule breakers. The campaign also sought to educate fishers on new statewide rules, gather intelligence on illegal activity, and focus on the 18 Sanctuary Zones where fishing is not allowed.
Operation Aelton is ongoing and was stepped up in late August with highly visible land and sea patrols, camp inspections and setting up roadside check points around Exmouth and Coral Bay to target traffic leaving Ningaloo Marine Park.
Over six days, 28 fishing offences were detected, some of which will be prosecuted. For the others infringement fines or warnings were issued.
Darren Schofield, Supervising Northern Region Fisheries and Marine Officer, said the DPIRD officers received valuable information from the public about suspected illegal fishing activities.
“The main offence uncovered was the failure to label fish, there were also those who fished in sanctuary zones, took rock lobsters without having a licence to do so, caught totally protected lobsters (with tarspot), or spearfished for protected fish species,” Mr Schofield said.
“This operation was a response to increase in detected offences, increased fishing pressure in the marine park and is a timely reminder that even though you are on holidays you need to abide by fishing rules.”
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