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25 Knot Speed Limit For Commercial Operators In Port Stephens

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Media release: 21 October 2008

The risk to dolphins, turtles and seabirds within the Port Stephens area has moved the NSW Marine Parks Authority to set a 25 knot speed limit on commercial operators within the Port.

The Port is within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park and is the hub of a thriving dolphin-watch industry.

The manager of the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, Max Haste, said the Port is home to Australia's largest boat-based dolphin watch industry.

"Dolphin-watch operators, conservationists and the general public are genuinely concerned about the risk to the animals from boats. The Marine Parks Authority agrees there should be measures in place to protect the animals, and the industry, and still allow for the coexistence of adventure craft operators."

Mr Haste said the speed limit would only apply to commercial activities within the Port and the sanctuary zones immediately outside the Port entrance. He said there would be no other speed restrictions off-shore, where the risks of boat strikes were much lower.

He said the Marine Parks Authority continued to welcome applications for tourism ventures within the Marine Park that would enhance the local economy, whilst meeting permit conditions which protect wildlife and the viability of existing businesses.

"The commercial permits assessment strategy, as this new policy has been coined, has been endorsed through the local Marine Park Advisory Committee. The new speed limit will be applied immediately on all new commercial activity permits issued by the MPA."

Mr Haste said 25 knots was akin to travelling about 50km/h. He said it was a limit that would cover the usual speed of nearly all commercial vessels that operate within the Port and would only impact on the activities which pose the most risk to marine wildlife. The new speed limit does not apply to private vessels.


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