Hours of covert nighttime surveillance in a shallow lagoon, surrounded by buzzing mosquitoes and dense mangroves, has foiled an illegal trapping operation in Queensland.
Shielded by foliage, officers shot grainy black and white footage showing two men in a small boat inspecting crab pots on August 5, which had been set around the Moreton Bay Marine Park, near Stradbroke Island.
The vessel was intercepted later that night and 24 live mud crabs were seized by officers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.
Rangers also confiscated a GPS system to confirm the route the boat had undertaken within the park.
The fishermen, aged 36 and 46, were caught operating in a 19-square-kilometre ‘green zone’ where fishing and crabbing is illegal.
They received a total of $20,131 in fines and costs after pleading guilty at the Cleveland Magistrates Court in February in relation to using a marine park for a prohibited purpose.
Ranger reveals details of covert investigation
Marine park ranger Steve Hoseck said the investigation was initiated after officers spotted unmarked traps placed in the marine park.
After determining who they suspected was behind the operation, Mr Hoseck’s team began observing and filming the illegal operation.
“It took several weeks for us to actually get down to the exact timing of the event (and then film it),” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“They obviously fish when it’s most opportune for them and they were doing so at night which made it even more difficult.
“There are mosquitoes, and sitting for long hours in the dark of the night out on the water is not comfortable.
“But we have to make sure that people abide by the rules and don't assume in the green zone.”
Why the green zone must be protected from fishing
Fishing within the green zone is banned in order to provide refuge for native species to breed and then venture out into the rest of the park.
Mr Hoseck said protecting wild aquatic creatures ensures they will continue to help create a healthy marine environment.
“It’s sad that hat people aren't following the rules and don't abide by them, because it's all our futures that we trying to protect,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“We are hoping (the fines) are a deterrent for for other fishers who may be tempted to fish in the green zones.
“We see bigger and better crabs in the marine park if we have areas of refuge for them.”
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