The Great Barrier Reef is a nautical paradise, offering one of the most stunning environs in the world to go sailing or boating.

Careless boating practices such as vessel groundings, collisions with large marine animals, and poor vessel maintenance send more than a ‘ripple’ through the Reef’s sensitive ecosystem.

On the other hand, responsible practices are not only extremely easy to follow and make good environmental sense, but they are also very sound business procedures.

Report all oil and fuel spills and suspected illegal disposal of wastes.

In general

  • Be on the look out for marine animals and travel slowly in areas where they are known to be present, for example:
    • Humpback whales migrate along the Reef from May to September
    • Dugongs inhabit shallow seagrass areas – particularly in the Hinchinbrook and Townsville regions
    • Seabirds nest or roost on sand cays and islands
    • Marine turtles are commonly found in shallow reef and seagrass areas - especially during September and October when mating behaviour brings them close to the surface.
  • Go slow near any islands and cays where seabirds are nesting or roosting
  • Use the voluntary speed limits and transit lanes in the Hinchinbrook Area
  • Look out for shallow coral, or other environmental hazards, and take into account tidal changes. Leave at least 30 centimetres clearance between the propeller and seabed
  • Check for nesting seabirds or turtles before pulling your vessel onto the beach
  • Slow down to minimise the wake when approaching reef edges, shorelines and beaches
  • Avoid pulling your boat up onto delicate beach vegetation such as sand dunes
  • Take all litter (for example, rubbish, food scraps and cigarette butts) with you and responsibly dispose of it on shore
  • Collect litter that you find on and in the water, and ashore
  • Be considerate of others when motoring or anchoring near them. Match your activities to the setting around you
  • Refuel onshore where possible, using the correct gear and have clean-up equipment ready.

When cleaning your vessel

  • Do not carry out major works at sea. Choose an approved slipway and maintenance facility, where possible. Contain any water used in the cleaning process that may be contaminated
  • Do not clean or scrub hulls on or near reefs
  • Use non-toxic, phosphate-free, chlorine-free cleaners (for example, baking soda, vinegar, citrus-based products, vegetable-based soaps). Avoid cleaners with bleach, ammonia, lye or petroleum distillates
  • Use cleaning and degreasing chemicals sparingly
  • Use non-toxic antifouling alternatives if practical (for example, silicon-based coatings, two-pack epoxy paint) or no antifouling at all
  • Wash your vessel down occasionally with a soft cloth to remove the slime layer and prevent the build-up of secondary fouling
  • Inspect the hull of your vessel regularly - as well as the internal seawater pipe work, fenders, anchors, open bilges, propellers and sea chests - for marine growth.
  • Report suspect species to the authorities
  • If the vessel has remained stationary for an extended period, treat any internal seawater systems using a highly diluted (less than five per cent) detergent solution prior to departing port.

When maintaining your engine

  • Keep your outboard engines in good condition, fix all leaks immediately
  • Inspect fuel lines for cracks and loose connections, replace the lines before they start leaking
  • Steam clean your engine rather than use degreasing chemicals, whenever possible.

When refuelling

  • Refuel on shore wherever possible. Use the correct gear and have spill response equipment readily available
  • Always fill portable fuel containers on shore
  • Have fuel absorbent material on hand to catch spills
  • Dispose of fuel soaked cloth at a hazardous waste facility, not in the rubbish bin.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must abide by the group size settings in the Cairns Planning Area
  • You must abide by the vessel length and group size settings in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area. You must not operate a vessel longer than 20 metres in Missionary Bay of the Hinchinbrook Planning Area, unless using the transit lanes
  • You must abide by the vessel length and group size settings in the Whitsunday Planning Area
  • You must have a Marine Parks permit to conduct a commercial operation in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park such as providing transport, accommodation or services for tourists.