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New long-range drones target illegal fishermen


A new ‘virtually undetectable’ drone is being deployed to catch recreational anglers fishing illegally in protected waters.

The drone, the Aerosonde 4.7, will target hotspots for lawbreakers in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef after successful tests to gather intelligence on vessels fishing out of bounds in green zones.

The 4.7 is a long-range drone that can travel at 120kph, with an endurance time of up to 18 hours and can be launched from land or patrol vessels.

It can travel and operate in the dark as it collects photographic, video and radar evidence and will now spearhead efforts to protect one of the country’s most treasured natural resources, reports the abc.net.au website.

“They can loiter for longer to gather quality evidence and increase the chances of successful prosecutions in court,” said Chris Cochrane, Director of Field Management Operations for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. “These offenders can take large numbers of fish quite quickly.”

Cochrane added that the aim was not just to catch culprits, but also to educate them regarding regulations designed the protect the fragile reef and allow it to recover. Around 600 recreational offences were recorded each year, accounting for half of all offences recorded for the marine park annually.

Recreational fisher Tony Minto told abc.net that he had been fishing the reef for 45 years and a lot of illegal fishing went on there. “The drone sounds like a good deterrent, but the fines need to be higher or the reward will still outweigh the penalties,” he said. “Introducing licences would also help.”

Surveillance in the areas was previously carried out with smaller drones travelling at lower altitudes which were more easily seen by anglers. They were also limited by shorter distance capability, but will remain part of surveillance missions.

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