PLAY BY THE RULES: Boaties unite in safety message
SATURDAY’S near perfect conditions drew crowds to the water across the region, causing busy boat ramps despite new restrictions around boating and fishing designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
According to Marine Safety Queensland the busyness extended across the state, and while Whitsunday Water Police and Whitsunday Police did not issue any fines for breaching regulations on Saturday, MSQ emphasised the importance of only taking to the water when absolutely necessary.
Boaties have also echoed this message urging people to abide by the rules for their own safety, with one congratulating the community on their cooperation so far.
New restrictions came into place last week meaning fishing for leisure and recreational boating are no longer permitted.
Boating and fishing are now only allowed for “essential purposes” including to travel to the shops or work or to provide for families.
Maritime Safety Queensland general manager Angus Mitchell said MSQ officers were monitoring ramps across the state over the weekend in line with new regulations.
“The level of boating activity over the weekend clearly showed many boaties were out on the water without a legitimate reason,” he said.
“We’re relying on boat users to exercise common sense. If you don’t need to be out on the water, stay at home.
“We need everyone to help with the community response to COVID-19, and this means limiting the time spent away from home as much as possible.”
President of Whitsunday Volunteer Marine Rescue Mal Priday also urged boaties to only head out on the water if it was vital after what was “a very crowded day at every boat ramp” on Saturday.
Mr Priday was concerned that interactions while fuelling up, buying bait and unloading boats could increase the likelihood of spreading coronavirus.
“It looks as if people are using fishing as an excuse to get out,” he said.
“They’re putting themselves and others in the community at risk and they’ve got to ask themselves ‘Is it really worth it?’
“To me, it’s pretty simple. Stay at home. A bit of short-term pain or inconvenience is going to make that inconvenience a lot shorter.”
Mr Priday also urged boaties to consider the safety of his volunteer team if something were to go wrong on the water, saying that a rescue could also put them at risk of contracting the virus.
The message to abide by the rules also rang loud and clear from owner of Whitsunday Fishing World Bob Spees.
Mr Spees was at the Port of Airlie boat ramp over the weekend and congratulated boaties for their behaviour saying from what he saw, everyone followed the new regulations for social distancing.
“I had feelings of pride that our community had adhered to the rules set down only 48 hours earlier,” he said.
“After speaking to some anglers later, I know that there were a couple of people who may not have known the new rules (and) had not done the right thing. But with the very short notice they were a small minority and we endeavour to get the information out to all fisherman and boaties.
“To see our community observing the rules set down by governments to keep us all safe and working together makes my wife and I very proud to be part of this community.
“I call on all fishermen and women (to) keep doing the right thing.”
Mr Spees reinforced some key rules for boaties to remember when heading out on the water for essential reasons as stated by the MSQ.
“Fish with people only from your household; fish only in local waters; do not travel to fish, head directly to your nearest ramp; fish only for food, not for fun; do not delay when launching and retrieving your boat; do not allow household members to play on the beach or in any nearby park; maintain social distance at all times; do not clean fish at the ramp, take them home to reduce time out of your home.”
He also urged boaties to stay safe so that all those who needed to be on the water for permitted reasons could continue to do so.
“Please take care and observe these rules. If we don’t, we will have this opportunity taken away - it’s that simple.”
Mayor Andrew Willcox also urged residents of the Whitsundays to follow the rules for the benefit of the wider community.
“So far, we have not had any transmission within the community, and we need to keep it like that and the way we do that is obey these rules,” he said.
“COVID-19 doesn’t have any boundaries. If people are out there trying to bend the rules, that’s how our community is going to strife.
“If you are going to go fishing, please do the right thing.”