A new purpose-built boat named BLACKBERRY is the latest addition to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s fleet for dealing with crocodiles.
The $150,000 5.8 metre black boat is the largest and most powerful of EHP’s vessels and has been purpose built to navigate coastal and estuarine waterways.
Speaking in Cairns, Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the boat will play an important role in the crocodile monitoring program, as well as routine wildlife operations.
“Its first mission will be coastal crocodile patrols in far north Queensland near Cape Tribulation in response to EHP received crocodile reports,” Dr Miles said.
“The vessel had been painted matt black to minimise light reflection and visibility from the water.
“Its black design reduces its visibility to improve the effectiveness of crocodile patrols.
“This allows staff to get as close as possible to the wildlife at night without spooking the animals, which makes it ideal for crocodile management activities,” Dr Miles said.
Member for Barron River Craig Crawford said EHP wildlife officers had until now depended on smaller vessels, which limited their ability to work in all coastal areas during windy conditions.
“Blackberry’s larger size will allow wildlife officers to operate in a broader range of coastal waters in the Great Barrier Reef, Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Straits regions,” Mr Crawford said.
“Having the capacity to move people and resources around quickly and comfortably is of great benefit, regardless of whether it’s in pursuit of a problem crocodile, supporting crocodile surveys in remote areas or conducting wildlife research.”
The vessel was custom built by Hammerhead Marine and Fabrication.
Boat builder Gerard Land said his team had designed and built the boat from the ground up to cover a wide range of tasks.
“It has been designed and built to suit the needs of EHP to fulfil their operations, while minimising any risk to personnel on board,” Mr Land said.
“Designing and building this vessel with EHP has been fantastic, as it has given us an insight and better understanding of what the department does and it also helped us refine and produce a better boat.”
“The boat has been designed and built to service coastal streams, estuaries and open waters, providing a safe, stable work platform.
“It has a self-draining deck to help keep the work area clean and drain any wayward swell that may come over the sides of the boat and storm covers have been designed so the crew can stay safely under cover.”
The Palaszczuk Government has committed $5.8 million over the next three years for crocodile management, including $2.7 million for a crocodile survey and monitoring program.
EHP wildlife officers will conduct trials and reconnaissance surveys in the far north as part of the crocodile management program, starting next month.
“The information collected from these reconnaissance surveys will help the department finalise the 2017 crocodile survey schedule,” Dr Miles said.
“The crocodile monitoring program to be carried out over three years will be the most comprehensive study into Queensland’s crocodile populations in more than a decade”.
So far in 2016, 44 crocodiles have been removed from the Cairns Regional Council area.