A NSW man who took almost 200 protected marine plants from a declared Queensland fish habitat area for commercial purposes has been fined $12,000 in the Bundaberg Magistrates’ Court.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said there was evidence of a well-established illegal commercial operation when Fisheries Queensland detected the offences in the Elliott River Fish Habitat area.
“Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol officers found 193 dead yellow mangrove stumps ready for transportation during a vehicle search at Fallons Rocks in June 2017,” Mr Furner said. “Admissions were made that the collection of the marine plants was commercial in nature, with the offender travelling from New South Wales to Queensland to remove them.”
Minister Furner said all marine plants are protected under provisions of the Fisheries Act 1994which prohibits the destruction, damage or removal of marine plants without prior approval.
“This protection applies to all marine plants including in Declared Fish Habitat Areas, and regardless of whether they grow on privately or publicly owned land and whether the plants are alive or dead,” Mr Furner said. “Marine plants are a fundamental part of fish habitat and a vital natural resource that help sustain fish for the future for commercial, traditional and recreational fishing. Disturbances can disrupt the estuarine food chain and lead to long term decline in fish production and general aquatic health.”
Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol can issue on-the-spot fines of $1305 for damaging marine plants and habitats, and penalties of up to $391,650 may apply in cases which are prosecuted in court. Marine plants include mangroves, seagrass, salt couch grass, succulent plants, samphire plants, saltmarsh plants, grass-sedge wetland plants (grasses, rushes and sedges), melaleuca (paper barks) and casuarina (coastal she-oaks) and algae.
To report suspected illegal fishing activity including marine plant damage, call the 24 hour, toll-free Fishwatch hotline on 1800 017 116.
For more information on marine plant protection, visit www.fisheries.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.
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