Late last week Fishing World‘s bluewater kayak fishing columnist Dan Bode became embroiled in a heated and potentially dangerous situation involving Marine Park Authority officers.
Bode told Fisho that on Thursday February 11 he was fishing within a permitted Habitat Protection Zone inside Cape Byron Marine Park (CBMP) when approached by MPA rangers and a NSW Fisheries officer. The officers then proceeded to marshal Bode’s kayak and accuse him of fishing inside a Sanctuary Zone.
Bode says the accusation forced him to prove his innocence or risk a $500 fine.
“By predetermining my guilt based on a series of arbitrary visual waypoints to back a verbal accusation of zone encroachment, the officers could not feasibly encourage my enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of the marine park.
What transpired was a circus of fear and harassment that continued for up to twenty minutes”.
According to Bode he was directed by the Fisheries officer onboard the MPA marked dinghy to make his kayak immediately available for inspection.
“The Fisheries officer couldn’t tell me how he proposed to inspect my kayak but insisted on an inspection. To make my kayak immediately available, I voluntarily dismounted in the middle of the ocean, pushed my craft towards the officers on the MPA dinghy and risked my own life in the name of Fisheries compliance. After a couple of seconds in the water, fear set in. I was on my own in lumpy seas with no immediate offer of direction or support coming from either of the officers”.
Bode says he was left treading water, more than one kilometre from the closest land mass for a period of up to a minute.
After being instructed to reboard his fishing vessel, the kayaker’s innocence regarding marine park boundaries continued to be questioned by the MPA Ranger. Bode says he then referenced his GPS unit for verification of his travelled route.
“When I viewed the onscreen display, I had proof positive that I was fishing legally at all times. My GPS proved that the Rangers’ visual markers were up to 30 metres wayward of a $500 fine and a certain public prosecution”.
Bode believes that the placement of only a single marker buoy to designate the park’s Habitat Protection Zone borders is to blame for such inaccurate zoning determinations, and led to this incident.
When contacted spokeswoman for the Cape Byron Marine Park, Tonia Liosatos, told Fisho “Marine Park rangers routinely approach fishers to check for their catch and bag size limit, most park users are happy to comply with these routine inquiries”.
Fisho has also asked NSW Industry & Investment to comment on the matter and has been promised an official response as soon as possible.
Dan Bode says he will now lodge formal complaints with all relevant Ministers, the NSW MPA, NSW Fisheries and the NSW Premier.