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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Anna Falkenmire

Stay afloat: first jet ski safety campaign of 2024 hits Hunter

Jet skis in the Nelson Bay area last week. Picture by Peter Lorimer

A FLOOD of new jet ski users have been urged to learn the rules as NSW Maritime runs its first safety campaign of the year.

Operation Stay Afloat - Ride Safe will hit Hunter waterways this weekend, targeting those on jet skis, also known as personal water crafts (PWC).

"The campaign is aimed at educating PWC and jet ski riders about safety and courtesy on our waterways and encouraging new riders to learn the rules and regulations," a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

"Key safety advice for new and experienced operators includes making sure riders and their passengers are always wearing a lifejacket, regardless of the speed or conditions, making sure their licence and registration is up to date, and maintaining a safe distance from other waterway users."

NSW Maritime has asked riders to help protect marine life by keeping a proper look out and a safe distance away.

A jet ski rider at Port Stephens last week kicks up spray. Picture by Peter Lorimer

Jet ski riders, by law, must stay 300 metres away from whales, dolphins and dugongs.

Transport for NSW figures reveal jet ski popularity has surged in the past few years, with 90,000 riders now licenced in NSW, an increase of 36 per cent since 2020.

Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie have proven hotspots for jet skis this summer, and riders have been reminded that there are "special restrictions" in the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, sanctuary and habitat protection zones.

Different zones in the Port Stephens area. Picture by NSW Department of Primary Industries

Anchoring is not allowed on seagrass beds in sanctuary zones; jet skis are not allowed within 200 metres of the shore at Dutchmans Beach; and there are four-knot speed limits in place at Middle Grounds and Jimmys Beach.

Motorised water sports - irregular or circular driving, weaving, or towing a water skiier or flotation or aerial device - are not allowed in sanctuary zones.

The rule refresher and safety blitz comes amid fears from a tour operator at Port Stephens and a wildlife group at Lake Macquarie that jet skis, which are fast and quiet underwater, are affecting dolphin behaviours and harming other animals like swans and sea turtles.

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