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Australia Jetski group criticised for 300km trip through croc-infested Far North Queensland waters

04:53  17 february  2021
04:53  17 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man riding on the back of a boat in a body of water: The newly formed FNQ JetSki Club travelled from Cairns to Cooktown, covering around 300km. (Supplied: FNQ JetSki Club) © Provided by ABC NEWS The newly formed FNQ JetSki Club travelled from Cairns to Cooktown, covering around 300km. (Supplied: FNQ JetSki Club)

Jetski enthusiasts from Far North Queensland are defending a weekend trip that saw them ride through hundreds of kilometres of crocodile-infested rivers.

Members of the newly formed Far North Queensland JetSki Club embarked from Yorkeys Knob on Saturday morning bound for Cooktown.

The group navigated the coastline and travelled through the Daintree, Bloomfield and Endeavour Rivers, which are well-known crocodile habitats.

Last week a popular mariner was fishing in a 2.5-metre yacht tender at Hinchinbrook Island, south of Cairns, when he was believed to have been taken by a crocodile in the first fatal attack since 2017.

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There have been two non-fatal crocodile attacks in Far North Queensland in the past month.

The group's trip has attracted criticism, but riders said they would do it again.

'We saw a couple'

Colin Lawson, a founding member of the club and participant in the weekend ride, said the situation was no different to the jetski crocodile spotting tours that ran in the region.

"Lots of people seem to be concerned for our safety, but realistically we are very croc wise," he said.

"We all understand the risk and we all know how crocodiles act and that they're apex predators.

"Part of the concern was that if we fell off in the river we would be eaten by a crocodile straight away.

"Obviously when we go in those rivers we only go at high tide and at a sensible pace, and you stay on the ski — it's no different to a small boat."

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He said the riders were experienced, owned their own equipment, were insured and travelled with a support vessel.

But he said they had spotted some native wildlife.

"We saw a couple of crocodiles," he said.

"We just saw one scoot underneath us."

'Every legal right'

Mr Lawson said the group was conscious of the latest encounters, including one in which a swimmer was bitten on the head.

"We told everyone what had happened recently and to be very vigilant as to how you ride the ski, and obviously not to go too fast or turn too sharp," he said.

"But there's never been an incident of a person being attacked on a jetski.

"There's never been a fatality, there's never been an injury, there's never been a reported case.

"Crocodiles aren't going to jump up out of the water and attack a jetski rider while they're doing six or eight knots or faster.

"People are obviously concerned about other people's safety, but I don't think they should be over-regulating and overreaching.

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"It's still our river system to use and we have every legal right to use it."

'Right past a nest'

David White, who operated crocodile and wildlife tours along the Daintree River, said riding through the canal was asking for trouble.

He said he saw the group travelling down the river, close to mangroves, on Saturday.

"Crocs have been in the news lately, unfortunately, and there's been a tragedy down south of Cairns and my heart goes out to the wife and the family," Mr White said.

"There are just certain vessels that are too small for crocodile country … the size of the tender that guy was in … jetskis, with their legs hanging over the side near the water — I think it's dangerous.

"They went right past a crocodile nest, very close, and crocodiles are naturally very protective of their nests.

"If they were to fall off right next to the nest, she'd bite them just protecting her own nest and her babies.

"It's unlikely that anything's going to happen if they fall off, but it's always possible, and we can minimise all these occurrences with education and common sense."

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He said heavy rainfall had also created some hidden hazards.

"There are a lot of logs in the river and you can't really see them," Mr White said.

"There are submerged snags that are there all the time.

"If they hit one of them, they fly off.

"You only need one [crocodile] and you never know where they are, they're incredibly secretive animals, especially at this time of the year."

A spokesperson for the Department of Environment told the ABC the activity was not illegal but urged water users to be croc wise in the Far North.


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