Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) Fisheries Officers based on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait have conducted a joint operation with Water Police Thursday Island (WPTI) focusing on marine safety and fisheries compliance within the Torres Strait through proactive engagement.
Two AFMA officers and three WPTI officers took part in the operation on-board the Queensland Police vessel Brett Handran around the Near Western Islands of Badu and Mabuiag. A covert patrol around Badu Island was undertaken to search for concealed tropical rock lobster (TRL) cages. These cages can be used for stockpiling live TRL prior to the opening of the season.
The operation in Badu resulted in verbal warnings from AFMA and infringement notices from WPTI. The joint patrol continued through Mabuiag, where officers inspected TRL cages and patrolled reefs previously known for illegal commercial fishing activities and stockpiling.
Supported by air surveillance and intelligence from Maritime Border Command, a joint agency taskforce enabled by the Australian Border Force and the Australian Defence Force, the patrol vessel was directed from the Near Western Islands to the Central Sector and on to Masig (Yorke Island).
Officers inspected live TRL cages in the Port of Yorke Island before landing on the island to conduct fish receiver inspections.
During the six-day operation, AFMA Fisheries Officers patrolled eight islands and several well-known ‘hot spot’ reefs. Seven dinghies were intercepted and two fish receiver inspections were conducted. The response from the communities was positive, with local councillors and fishers happy at the visibility of AFMA’s compliance measures leading into the opening of the TRL season.
Overall, there were high levels of compliance throughout the TRL Fishery.
AFMA and the Water Police Thursday Island encourage all marine users in the Torres Strait to maintain this compliance with marine safety and fisheries requirements.