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Illegal fishing on the rise with 30 cases in eight days at Ningaloo World Heritage Site

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaMidwest Times
Aerial view of the Ningaloo Reef coastline near the North Mandu campground.
Camera IconAerial view of the Ningaloo Reef coastline near the North Mandu campground. Credit: Tourism Western Australia/Tourism Western Australia

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

Fisheries and marine officers from the Northern, Gascoyne and Mid West regions launched Operation Greyby, combining land and water-based resources to conduct highly visible patrols and covert operations with the use of drones to catch offenders.

Land patrols and manned checkpoints did not detect any offences and received positive feedback from travellers but out on the water was a different story.

Officers found 13 violations of fishing in a sanctuary zone, another case of fishing in the Quobba Fish Habitat Protection Area while five people were found fishing from a boat without a licence.

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Another three people were detected spearfishing for prohibited species and one was spearfishing in a closed area.

Roadside check points were used to inspect vehicles carrying fish
Camera IconRoadside check points were used to inspect vehicles carrying fish Credit: DPIRD

Two fishers had possession of a totally protected category 1 species, as well as cases of using a net with no licence and using non- permitted means for taking mud crabs and failure to tail-clip a taken lobster.

Two commercial fishing offences related to demersal scalefish being illegally used as bait.

Exmouth-based supervising fisheries and marine officer Darren Schofield said a significant increase in non-compliance with fishing rules had been detected since 2020 coinciding with COVID-related travel restrictions.

A screen shot from Operation Greyby of a group spearfishing.
Camera IconA screen shot from Operation Greyby of a group spearfishing. Credit: Supplied

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

“We detected more offences this time 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.”

Anyone with suspicions of illegal fishing activity is urged to contact FishWatch on 1800 815 507.

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