North West Island special activity area

Issued: 1 Apr 2022

With the camping area on North West Island about to reopen for the Easter holidays, visitors are reminded to be SharkSmart to reduce the risk of shark bites.

Regional Director Great Barrier Reef and Marine Parks Region Anthony Contarino said activities that attracted sharks were declared illegal at North West Island Reef in the Capricorn Bunker Group in the southern Great Barrier Reef.

“The special area declaration was made by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for safety reasons in 2021 and applies to the island’s surrounding waters,” Mr Contarino said.

“From December 2019 to April 2020, emergency services responded to three shark bite incidents at North West Island, including the tragic death of a 23 - year-old man.

“We believe people attracting sharks with fish or scraps for a photo or video opportunity increased the risk of shark bites in waters around the island, as did people who dumped their fish scraps offshore.

“Sharks are unpredictable, wild animals and deliberately attracting them for selfies is dangerous and increases the potential for other people to be injured from shark encounters.

“In response to these incidents, QPWS and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries declared the new rules and developed an education campaign to encourage SharkSmart behaviours to reduce the risks.”

Under the special activity area, people must not:

  • attract sharks by any means or methods to have a close interaction
  • process fish product in the water
  • dump fish scraps in the water
  • clean fish processing equipment in the water

Mr Contarino said North West Island is a beautiful place to visit, and visitors should do their part and be SharkSmart to help keep everyone safe.

“Unfortunately, some visitors have continued to attract sharks to film and take selfies with, and fines can be issued if people ignore the rules and put others at risk,” he said.

“In addition to the special area rules, visitors are reminded to observe the Marine Park rules and SharkSmart behaviours.

“Sharks are more active at dawn and dusk, so avoid swimming at those times and don’t swim near schools of fish or where birds may be diving for fish.

“If possible, swim with a buddy, stay close together and leave the water if you see a shark.”

The special area activity was declared in accordance with Section 128 of the Marine Parks Regulation 2017.

North West Island is 75km north west of Gladstone. For more information, visit camping at North West Island.

View a map of the special activity area.

Find more information about SharkSmart.