WA DPIRD counters significant increase in illegal fishing within Ningaloo Marine Park

Drones were used in Operation Greyby to detect illegal fishing activity. (Photo: WA DPIRD)

A blitz by Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) compliance officers uncovered 28 recreational fishing offences and two commercial fishing offences in the Ningaloo Marine Park during the last eight days of June.

Fisheries and Marine Officers from the Northern, Gascoyne and Midwest regions combined land and water-based resources to conduct highly visible patrols and some covert operations and used drones for evidence gathering in Operation Greyby.

They used the patrol vessel Houtman, three smaller boats, plus vehicles (including quad bikes) with the flexibility to alter investigation strategies to suit weather conditions and fishing activity. Land patrols and check points that officers manned did not detect any offences but received positive feedback and found people travelling with fish were aware of the possession limits and were supportive of the reduction in the demersal scalefish fillet possession limit.

It was out on the water that the illegal activity was encountered, including 13 offences of fishing in a sanctuary zone, another case of fishing in the Quobba Fish Habitat Protection Area. Five people were found fishing from a boat without a current licence, three people were detected spearfishing for prohibited species, another was spearfishing in a closed area.

Two fishers had possession of totally protected Category 1 finfish, as well as cases of using a net with no licence, using non permitted means for taking mud crabs and failure to tail-clip a taken lobster, and there were two commercial fishing offences detected where demersal scalefish had illegally been used as bait.

Exmouth-based Supervising Fisheries and Marine Officers Darren Schofield said a significant increase in non-compliance with fishing rules has been detected since 2020, which coincides COVID-19 with related travel restrictions.

“The extra fishing pressure has led to an increase in illegal fishing activities, as well as public complaints of suspicious activities and concerns regarding overfishing,” Mr Schofield said.

“We detected more offences this time in Operation Greyby than we did in a similar operation we conducted last year, so there will be future blitzes to help wipe-out the illegal behaviour.

“The Ningaloo Marine Park is a wonderful place to visit, but we need to remind fishers to follow WA’s fishing rules or face the consequences.”

Illegal fishing is a potential threat to sustainability, so FishWatch is available 24/7 ready to take calls from anyone with concerns or suspicions. Kindly call 1800 815 507 to report what you’ve seen.


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