The debate over speeding water vessels including jet skis has erupted again in Port Stephens following the discovery last week of a large dead sea turtle with a cracked shell which had washed up on Bagnalls Beach.
Nelson Bay's Rory Milne said that the incident had shocked many beachgoers and has joined the chorus of locals calling for a speed limit on water craft to help protect the area's native sea life.
However, Transport for NSW says it has no planned restrictions for jet skiers at Port Stephens, but routinely assesses waterway management (including area restrictions) to ensure safety.
Mr Milne said that turtles or dolphins have little time to evade a boat or jet ski honing down the Port at speeds of 60-100kph.
"Certainly this large dead turtle did not dive out of harms way quickly enough. Why do we allow boats and jet skis to travel at these speeds in the Port? Why not designate at 100 metre wide channel in the middle of the Port for fast travel and limit all other parts of the waterway to 20 knots or less? At least the turtles, dolphins and other marine animals have a chance to survive," Mr Milne said.
"Jet skis are not permitted in Sydney Harbour but in Port Stephens that is supposedly a marine park we allow them to hoon around and access all areas."
Frank Future, from Imagine Cruises, has been outspoken on the issue, saying it was time speed limits were introduced to Port Stephens.
"Commercial vessels have a speed limit of 25 knots [but most travel at around 10], yet there are no rules for recreational boats. I would like to see an area like Bagnalls turned into a 4 knot zone to help protect turtles and dolphins."
A TfNSW spokesperson said that there were a number of speed-restricted areas at Port Stephens, ranging from 4 to 8 knots (7.5-14.8kph).
"All speed restrictions are signposted and jet skiers are advised to check signage before entering the water," the spokesperson said.
"TfNSW encourages jet skiers and boaters to have fun but always keep safety top-of-mind when heading out on the water. This means always wearing a lifejacket and keeping a proper lookout."
TfNSW boating safety officers patrol NSW waters all year round to ensure jet skiers and operators of other vessels are following waterway rules, including over the weekend of January 8-9, with NSW Maritime issuing three penalty notices and 20 official warnings from more than 200 inspections along the north coast, including Port Stephens.
"While the compliance rate was 90 per cent, there were still too many people breaking the law with licensing and registration issues the top offence, accounting for 60 per cent of breaches followed by speeding and behavioural matters," said operations officer Rod McDonagh.
"We have seen a 16 per cent increase in jet ski licences and registrations in the past 12 months compared to the previous year. This means we expect to see more people out on the waterways using jet skis this summer, with a number of them new to the activity and having less experience."
Sergeant Clint Brown from Port Stephens Water Police said that they had not received many complaints about speeding vessels this summer.
"There are more jet ski and boats users on the water and more marine life due to the marine parks so it is imperative that users follow the rules and regulations."
The Examiner contacted the Nelson Bay Jet Ski Hire, but a representative did not want to comment.
Mr Milne has urged locals to sign a petition to `Ban jet skis Nelson Bay' on change.org and to 'have your say' on the website of Port Stephens Council, which is running a boating and fishing survey.
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