SUNSHINE Coast Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers have seized 130 crab pots from the Maroochy River during a targeted operation in January.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the operation targeted abandoned crab pots which could continue to ‘ghost fish’. “Ghost fishing happens when lost or abandoned fishing gear continues to catch crabs, fish and other wildlife which become trapped, die and then act as bait, continuing the cycle,” Mr Furner said.
“Crabbing is one of Queensland’s most popular forms of fishing, however the impact of ghost fishing on the environment is a serious problem that must be addressed. The high number of abandoned crab pots, some of which can trap turtles, recovered by QBFP officers shows that greater care needs to be taken by fishers setting crab pots.”
Mr Furner said the proper use of fishing gear was ultimately the responsibility of fishers.
“A range of legal requirements apply to crabbing in Queensland including restrictions on fishing gear and size and possession limit,” Mr Furner said. “For example, fishers can be fined $261 for failing to mark apparatus correctly or failing to use a prescribed float. People who see suspected unmarked, lost or abandoned crabbing apparatus, should record an accurate location, such as GPS coordinates, of the apparatus and report it to their closest Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol office or the FishWatch hotline on 1800 017 116.”
Mr Furner said the recent roll-out of body-worn cameras was helping Sunshine Coast QBFP officers with compliance operations and prosecutions.
“QBFP monitors fisheries compliance by more than 642,000 recreational fishers and 1700 commercial fishing licence holders,” Mr Furner said. By its nature, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol field work can be hazardous and officers at times operate in difficult, often isolated and dynamic environments. It is now a workplace health and safety requirement for all Queensland fisheries officers to wear body cameras to capture video footage of inspections and interactions with the public.
“The body cameras and upgraded computer servers to store the recorded data have been progressively rolled out to QBFP’s 19 bases statewide. The footage is stored in a secure environment and reviewed if necessary.”
Legal requirements applying to crabbing in Queensland:
- In tidal waters, no more than four crab pots or dillies, or a combination of both, may be used or possessed on a boat per person at any time.
- All crabbing equipment needs to be clearly marked with an identification tag showing the owner’s surname and address and must have a light coloured surface float attached when not tied to a fixed object.
- The float must not be less than 15 cm in any dimension and also identify the owner’s name.
- When the pot is tied to a fixed object a tag that shows the owner’s name must be attached to a part of the rope that is above the high water mark.
Tips for avoiding lost crab gear:
- Crab pots should be checked regularly and removed from the water when they are not being used.
- Crabbers should ensure their pots are heavy enough and have enough rope attached to the float so they are not lost in strong tidal currents.
- Crab fishers should check their gear regularly to avoid it being misplaced during tidal events.
- Crab pots should be set below the low tide mark and in a sufficient depth of water at all stages of the tide so that marine animals are not exposed to the sun and unwanted crabs can be released alive. It is an offence if the apparatus contains fish and is out of the water.
What should people do if they suspect fishing gear has been abandoned?
QBFP relies greatly on the community to provide relevant and timely information relating to potential offences concerning our valuable fishery resources.
If you suspect illegal fishing, whether seen in person or online, report it to the FishWatch hotline on 1800 017 116 or the online Fishwatch form at www.facebook.com/FisheriesQueensland
Under Fisheries legislation, it is an offence to unlawfully interfere with fishing gear including crab pots.