Public asked to tackle illegal fishing
The public has been asked to blow the whistle on suspicious fishing activity “as soon as they observe it”.
A Government spokeswoman has confirmed that the Department of Fisheries had launched an investigation into reports of illegal fishing at protected sites.
The move came after Chris Gauntlett, owner of Blue Water Divers, revealed that baited lines and boxes had been found at the Eastern Blue Cut dive site off Dockyard.
The spokeswoman said: “The Fisheries Enforcement Section of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is currently investigating several incidents of illegal fishing in protected dive sites involving similar fixed fishing gear.”
She added: “The public should be reminded that it is illegal to fish within a protected dive site, use fixed fishing gear and use scuba gear for the purposes of fishing.
“Members of the public are encouraged to contact the Marine Enforcement Officer on 535-4615 to report any suspicious fishing activity as soon as they observe it.”
She added: “The department would like to thank members of the public, specifically the diving community and Blue Water Divers, for their vigilance.”
Mr Gauntlett said divers had found the illegal contraptions at the popular dive site on three occasions in the past month “from zero before that”.
The spokeswoman, who said “reports of illegal fishing were on par with a normal summer season”, confirmed that the department suspected that the bait boxes found by Blue Water Divers were targeting rock fish.
She explained: “The metal cages reported by Mr Gauntlett are not fish traps. They are in fact submerged bait boxes secured at depth with hook and line attached.”