One of the more common fines issued to boaties on Moreton Bay over the Christmas holiday period was for travelling too fast through Marine Park designated go slow areas.
The regulations are in place to protect turtles and dugong that frequent the shallower areas of the Bay, which National Parks state ‘boat strike’ is a major threat to these species.
There are also areas designated go slow zones to protect their natural integrity and provide the opportunity for all marine park users to enjoy the undisturbed values and beauty of an area without the interruption and impacts of fast moving vessels.
The regulation is that in a go slow zone all vessels must travel off-the-plane or in displacement mode, and in a way that minimises the chance of a turtle or dugong being struck.
All motorised water sports are prohibited in go slow zones.
Water sports are defined as driving a water craft other than in a straight line.
For example, a boat, including personal watercraft, not taking the most reasonable direct route between two places, driving in circles, weaving, and surfing down or jumping over waves, swell or wash as well as waterskiing, parasailing or wake boarding.
There are also extra go slow areas for vessels over eight metre long to address the specific issue of larger vessels striking dugong in southern Moreton Bay.
In these areas, boats over eight metres are restricted to 10 knots or less.
The areas covered by go slow zones in Moreton Bay is extensive, just about all water less than two metres deep on the eastern side of the Bay outside the Rous and Little Ships channels including Maroom, Amity, Warragamba and Moreton banks all come under go slow regulations.
The boundary for some Marine Park zones, especially around shallows banks in the Bay, is dependent on water depth.
The difficulty boaties have is identifying the boundaries of designated zones, while there are beacons defining areas, it can be confusing on the water as to where the boundaries are.
Some are defined by water depth – for example in a two metre depth contour you must have at least two metres of water under you boat at low tide and in a five metre depth you must have at least five metres of water under your boat at low tide.
Many GPS mapping providers have zones marked on their electronic maps, which is the only accurate way to know if you’re in a go slow or Marine Park zone.
National Parks also provide a spreadsheet of boundary coordinates they can manually enter into their GPS for those boaties without modern mapping software.
The fine for going too fast in a go slow zone is $500, so it is well worth ensuring you know the regulations and where you are in the Bay.