Festive fun leads to rise of water danger

Phil Coulthard, Dolphin Discovery CentreSouth Western Times
The narrow Cut, opening into Koombana Bay from the Lescehenault Estuary, is dangerous in summer as the area gets busy with many types of water users.
Camera IconThe narrow Cut, opening into Koombana Bay from the Lescehenault Estuary, is dangerous in summer as the area gets busy with many types of water users.

With a big Christmas holiday season soon upon us, the expected increase in boating activity throughout the Bunbury region serves as a timely reminder for all skippers to familiarise themselves with the Bunbury Aquatic Use Plan and the updated South West Boating Guide.

Released by the Department of Transport (DOT) as a revised plan a few years ago, small boat skippers and jet-ski users have a responsibility to be fully aware of the speed restrictions and designated ski zones found in the Koombana Bay area and also to demonstrate a generous amount of common sense.

This is particularly important during the peak season following Christmas through to the New Year when hundreds of boats will be out on the water each day enjoying our glorious coastline.

Of particular concern will again be the Leschenault Estuary opening on the eastern side of Koombana Bay known as the “Cut”.

This narrow boating channel is most definitely an accident waiting to happen due to its high recreational value and lack of boating speed limits.

The risk is especially high during those super calm days when the Cut offers a perfect place to paddle kayaks and SUPs; as an anchorage for fishing; and as a wonderful place to view our wild dolphins.

What many people forget to take into consideration when using this area is the lack of navigational space, the strong tidal currents and the sneaky breaking swells that smash against the rock walls.

A number of small boats have already been capsized in front of the Cut and I have lost count of how many times I have witnessed near misses between boats, jet-skis and swimmers in the channel over the years.

The boat restriction zone running to the north of the Cut will also be a critical area of focus for the DOT this summer.

With a long swell line and strong currents now posing a significant danger, the extension of this closed area for motorised vessels north along the coast has been a fantastic inclusion to the new Bunbury Aquatic Use Plan.

The area has also become a welcome relief for our local dolphins who use it to socialise and nurse their babies.

Although the DOT have no direct responsibility for the protection of the dolphins, they recognised the small area as a critical space for them and took this into consideration during the review process.

As a result, an area running north for 300m was gazetted as closed for motorised vessels and an 8 knot speed restriction extends a further 1.7km within 200m of the shore following the community consultation period which saw the majority of aquatic users support the initiative.

Unfortunately the winter storms have again washed away the floating marker buoys making it difficult for skippers to identify where they can and can’t enter, however I would expect the DOT will replace these prior to the busy Christmas holiday season.

For more information on the Bunbury Aquatic Use Plan and the latest information on marine safety call the Marine Safety Hotline on 13 11 56. Better still, grab yourself a copy of the South West Boating Guide by visiting your local DOT office or download it from their website at www.transport.wa.gov.au/boatingguides.

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