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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Always looking out for offences
Monday 13 September 2021

DPIRD blitz on illegal fishing to protect Ningaloo and sustainability

​​The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is working with the local north-west communities to stamp out illegal fishing in the Ningaloo Marine Park. 

The locals between Red Bluff and North West Cape protect it with a passion and, as guardians of this environmental jewel, public complaints about suspicious fishing activity and concerns around overfishing have been on the rise.   

Established in 1987 and expanded in 2004 to protect the entire reef system, Ningaloo Marine Park has always been a mecca for holidaymakers.

Last month, DPIRD compliance officers achieved six successful prosecutions in one day in Exmouth Court, with penalties for offenders ranging from $450 to more than $2,409.

To further respond to illegal fishing concerns, an operation was geared-up to blitz the Ningaloo Marine Park and target rule breakers, as well as educate fishers on new statewide rules, gather intel on illegal activity and focus on the 18 Sanctuary Zones where fishing is not allowed.


   Highly visible roadside check points and sea patrols are vital to detect offenders

Operation Aelton is ongoing and was stepped up in late August with highly visible land and sea patrols, camp inspections and setting up roadside check points around Exmouth and Coral Bay to target traffic leaving Ningaloo Marine Park.

Over six days, 28 fishing offences were detected, some of which will be prosecuted. For the others infringement fines or warnings were issued. 


  Illegal spearfishing activity was among a range of offences officers uncovered

Supervising Northern Region Fisheries and Marine Officer, Darren Schofield said the DPIRD officers received valuable information from the public about suspected illegal fishing activities.

“The main offence uncovered was the failure to label fish, there were also those who fished in sanctuary zones, took rock lobsters without having a licence to do so, caught totally protected lobsters (with tarspot), or spearfished for protected fish species,” Mr Schofield said.    

“I’m also pleased to say the officers taking part in Operation Aelton received lots of positive feedback from the public, especially at the roadside check points.

“This operation was a response to increase in detected offences, increased fishing pressure in the marine park and is a timely reminder that even though you are on holidays you need to abide by fishing rules.

“As compliance officers our role is to uphold community standards, represented by WA’s fishing rules that are part of sustainable fisheries management to ensure there’ll be fish for the future.”     

Illegal fishing is a potential threat to sustainability, so FishWatch is available 24/7 ready to take calls from anyone with concerns or suspicions – call 1800 815 507 to report what you’ve seen.​​​​​​

Last modified: 13/09/2021 5:09 PM

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