Fishermen in Barrier Reef 'no fishing' zone cop $18k fine
FOUR commercial fishermen have been fined a total of $18,000 for operating dories in a non-fishing area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, while not attached to a mother ship.
Robert David, 44, Joel McGowan, 32, Clinton Pirritt, 39, and Adrian Watkins, 46, each pleaded guilty in Gladstone Magistrates Court to the offence, which occurred on December 19 last year.
Commonwealth prosecutor Sophie Harburg said a coast watch aircraft had spotted the four dories in the Marine National Park Zone.
She said the dories were initially close to one another, but "scattered" when the aircraft approached.
Ms Harburg said the dories, which must be in-tow or attached to a mother ship when in a non-fishing zone, were determined by the aircraft's GPS to be 4.29km within the barrier of the zone.
The four men declined to be interviewed at the time, but the mother ship's master, Heath Munn, who was also charged, but did not appear in court today, did speak to investigators.
Ms Harburg said legislation was in place to protect the reef from "excessive human interference", and as professional fishermen experienced in the industry, the onus was on the men to know whether they were in a non-fishing zone.
McGowan and Watkins both told the court financial pressures had led them to be there at the time of the offence.
Magistrate Melanie Ho said the penalty must be enough to deter the four men and the wider commercial fishing community from breaking such laws.
The men, from Gladstone, Bundaberg and Tin Can Bay, were each fined $4500 with a conviction recorded.