The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is issuing a timely warning to review regulations before imposing them on state marine parks to avoid costly fines and potential jail time.
Fishing is permitted within the marine park, but protected areas within the park are set aside for conservation and low-impact recreational activities, and fishing and harvesting of flora and fauna are prohibited.
Penalties range from a warning for a first offense to a fine of up to $100,000 and/or two years in prison for a felony or repeat offense.
The Department of Environment and Water issued 666 warnings and 54 cautions for people fishing in protected areas between 2020-21 and 2022-23.
NPWS Marine Park Regional Coordinator John Emmett said rangers regularly patrol the marine park to ensure all recreational and commercial fishing activities are conducted in accordance with regulations.
“Securing the state’s marine parks is essential to promoting biodiversity and protecting and conserving important fish, plants and invertebrates,” he said.
“Sanctuary zones are like ‘biodiversity hotspots’ in the ocean. We want people to visit and enjoy these areas, but they need to remember that all flora and fauna within the area is protected.
“About six per cent of South Australia’s waters are designated as protected areas, meaning the remaining 94 per cent of the ocean remains open to fishing.”
Emmett said sanctuary zone maps and information are available at most boat launches, but he encouraged boaters to check to see if the zones are loaded into their navigation systems.
Free smartphone apps such as SA Fishing and Deckee also display protected area boundaries.
Illegal fishing can be reported through the 24-hour Fishwatch hotline on 1800 065 522.
Other illegal activities such as dangerous boating, dumping of rubbish and vehicles damaging sand dunes and salt marshes can be reported to SA Police on 131 444.
For more information about marine parks, visit http://www.marineparks.sa.gov.au.