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'Alarmingly high rate of unsafe behaviours': officials to scrutinise boaties at Easter

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The state agency for safe water travel is set to crack down on boaties who ignore regulations during the Easter holidays.

Maritime Safety Queensland’s Maritime Enforcement Team (MET), which has more than doubled in size during the past year, will be on the water ensuring people are doing the right thing, as part of a boating safety campaign.

The campaign will target non-compliance with speed and lifejackets regulations, and will run until April 14.

The MET ran a similar campaign during the summer school holidays, when it noted a 10 per cent increase in non-compliance from previous years. A total of 358 infringements and warnings were issued during that period.

Queensland has more than one million recreational boat licence holders, many of whom are expected to flock to the waterways during the holidays.

Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Kell Dillon reminded owners of vessels to be cautious.

“Boaties need to clearly understand the message that speeding is dangerous on the water, just as it is on the roads,” he said.

“It is particularly dangerous when waterways are more congested, such as during the holidays, because speeding reduces a skipper’s decision-making time to avoid incidents.

Maritime Safety Queensland launched a boat safety campaign this week.

“And we cannot emphasise enough that lifejackets are the seatbelts of the sea.

“It is seriously concerning that Maritime Safety Queensland’s Maritime Enforcement Team found an alarmingly high rate of unsafe behaviours out on our busiest waterways during the summer.

“Having two in every three intercepted boaties doing the wrong thing is simply unsustainable from a safety point of view.

“It is particularly disappointing that speeding and life jacket offences continue to feature prominently.

“So, I say to boaties, please slow down, wear your lifejacket and make sure everyone else does too.

“If you end up in the water and you’re not wearing your lifejacket, it can’t save you.”

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

There were 16 boating fatalities in 2023.

Most boating fatalities are drownings that occur after unexpected incidents resulting in people being thrown overboard.

From 2018 to 2023, 68 people drowned or were presumed to have drowned in marine incidents involving recreational vessels in Queensland. Only five were known to have been wearing a lifejacket.

MSQ’s website has more information on speed limits and lifejackets.

Boats near Mudjimba Island.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is urging boaties to take extra care to protect wildlife and help marine parks recover from recent bleaching events.

QPWS marine park ranger Steve Hoseck said increased marine traffic at Easter posed a risk to surface-breathing marine mammals and coral communities under stress.

“We are asking skippers to be extra careful of where they drop anchor to avoid damaging reef systems,” he said.

“We are continuing to monitor Moreton Bay Marine Park, Great Sandy Marine Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which are experiencing elevated water temperatures and coral bleaching.

“The best thing people can do right now to help these areas recover is to prevent any further damage to the coral, which is why we are asking boaties to slow down and check where they are dropping their anchors these holidays.”

Mr Hoseck said the marine animals that rely on the ecosystems are particularly vulnerable during the busy Easter period, when they can sustain injuries caused by boats and jet skis.

“We’re also reminding everyone out enjoying our marine parks to adhere to Go Slow Areas, which are enforced in known turtle and dugong habitat,” he said.

“Rangers patrol these areas and boaties caught on the plane in these areas could face an on-the-spot fine of $619.”

Anyone who comes across injured, stranded or dead marine wildlife should report it by calling the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation on 1300 130 372.

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