How to minimise your impact on Australia Day.
Happy New Year to you all and welcome the dawn of another year in paradise.
With the sun shining bright and the warm waters lapping our shores there is definitely no better place to be this school holidays than in and around the waters of our beautiful South West coast.
Whether you are on a boat, enjoying the beach or relaxing on the banks of the Leschenault Estuary, our marine wonderland offers so much at this time of the year so make sure you have a fantastic time and remain safe.
Like most summer school holidays the number of people out on the water increases dramatically creating an increased risk of incidents and injury and The Cut is once again the main concern.
This is especially during those super calm days when a wide variety of motorised craft, tourism vessels, swimmers, paddlers and fishers are all in the area at the same time.
Although the combination of respect, common sense and conformity to the rules of the road are acted out by the majority, a number of ridiculously close calls between Christmas and New Year again highlight the risks associated with minority “cowboys” who feel the need to blast boats and jet skis in confined or restricted areas.
Of course it is equally important for us to remain respectful of the environment and the animals that live within it, especially those animals that are directly impacted by our actions.
Fishers leaving behind bait bags and plastics on beaches and jetties has been frustrating, especially along the basalt rocks of Rocky Point where I personally filled two rubbish bags in 10 minutes at the weekend.
It was also sad to see a number of small puffer fish and a big stingray left for dead on the rocks under the bridge near the Plug last week.
Obviously those involved represent the minority of the fishing community, however the impact of their thoughtless actions and the mess they leave behind will continue to be an issue and always outweigh the efforts of those who do the right thing.
And, as you would expect, at this time of the year the welfare of the dolphins that spend the majority of their time looking after their newborn calves within Koombana Bay and the Leschenault Estuary is of great concern.
Reports from dolphin research teams along with dolphin watch operators out on the water continue to highlight the lack of understanding skippers have regarding restrictions and guidelines that are put in place to protect the dolphins.
This also includes the boat exclusion area north of the Cut which has become more of a boat parking lot and jet ski area rather than a restricted zone that doubles as a protected space for dolphins.
The dolphin guidelines can be found on the DPaW website www.dpaw.gov.au and encourage us to maintain a safe distance, to reduce our speed, and avoid intentionally feeding or swimming with them whenever they are nearby.
For skippers who are unfamiliar with the local boating guidelines, visit the Department of Transport website www.transport.wa.gov.au/ imarine/boating-guides.asp for detailed maps, warnings and updated information.
Although things have now settled down after Christmas, the Australia Day long weekend has always proven to be a high risk weekend.
It is also the dolphins’ worst nightmare for impact and harassment so please take the time to review the boating and dolphin guidelines to ensure we can all stay safe and enjoy this summer holiday season.
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