On 29 May 2015, three commercial divers—Bradley Jolly, David Shkreli and Benjamin James Thomson were intercepted on board the commercially registered vessel Hammerhead by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers, while they were anchored and collecting coral inside a Marine National Park Zone of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, commonly known as a ‘green zone’.
Marine National Park zones are defined under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning plan. It is prohibited to take plants, animals and marine products, including coral, from inside Marine National Park zones.
On 1 June 2016, the three offenders pleaded guilty in the Gladstone Magistrates Court to illegally taking coral in a prohibited area commonly known as a green zone. Each was fined $4,000. While they had relevant permits for collecting coral, these excluded green zones. Each diver had between 10–11 years’ experience in the industry.
The offenders stated they were not aware at the time that they were inside a green zone. They had a GPS unit on board their vessel, but no zoning maps or charts of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
They stated they had conducted dives at two locations that day, and both locations were confirmed to be inside the green zone. They had collected approximately 25 pieces of coral that day before being intercepted by QPWS.
Charge / Sentence
Bradley Jolly, David Shkreli and Benjamin Thomson were convicted on 1 June 2016 and pleaded guilty to:
One charge of conduct prohibited or done without required permission—contrary to section 38BA(1) of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.
His Honour Magistrate Lehmann ordered the defendants to each pay a fine of $4,000 and court costs.
In sentencing, the Magistrate took into account the defendants’ early guilty pleas and noted the defendants had replaced the coral in the water as instructed by QPWS rangers. While the prosecution argued the survival of the coral was in doubt, the Magistrate accepted the defence’s submission that there were good prospects the coral had survived.
His Honour accepted the defendants had cooperated and participated in recorded interviews with authorities, that they were all remorseful and unlikely to re-offend.
His Honour accepted that general deterrence was important but noted personal deterrence was of less significance in this case given the defendants' cooperation and remorse.
His Honour noted the penalty imposed needed to deter other like-minded persons.