Prevent Marine Pollution, Environmental Laws & Protection for Australian Yacht & Boaters

All recreational and commercial boaters have a responsibility to preserve, protect and respect the oceans and waterways.

Some key areas to carefully consider at all times when on the water are :


The principal factor under noise control legislation is the concept of offensive noise, which is based upon how a “reasonable person” would react.

In deciding whether the noise from a motor vessel is offensive, the following factors would be considered:

  • the character of the noise
  • the quality of the noise
  • the noise level
  • the effect the noise has on activities
  • the time of the noise event, eg. early morning
  • the waterside land use.

Noise also disturbs wildlife. Care should be taken to reduce noise in the vicinity of waterbirds and other animals.


There are fishing regulations in place regarding certain species and the size of the fish that can be taken from the sea. Take only what you need when fishing for food and return unused live bait to the sea.  Know the fish size, bag and boat limits in the area you are fishing.


Thousands of kilograms of plastic and fishing line enter the oceans around the world every day.  Fatal injuries are suffered by marine animals and birds as a result of rubbish, fishing line, ropes and hooks. 
Discarded fishing lines can wrap around the beaks of birds.  Unable to eat, they slowly and painfully die of starvation. Plastic bags are particularly harmful as they are swallowed by marine creatures like turtles, which mistaking take the bag for jelly fish, an important food source. 

For these reasons and many more, NEVER throw your rubbish into the water.  Keep it onboard in containers and take extra care not to let rubbish or plastic bags blow away from your boat.  Keep it stowed!

If you see another boat user dumping rubbish, take note.  Record the registration details of the boat, the time and date, the details of the incident and take a photograph if you can.  Contact your state Environment Protection Authority to report the incident.


It is illegal to discharge raw sewage to the waters.  On the spot fines can be issued.

Passenger-carrying commercial vessels and houseboats are required to install holding tanks to prevent the discharge of raw sewage. In addition, certain areas are declared as “no-discharge” zones for treated sewage.

Recreational vessel operators have a variety of options available to properly manage sewage pollution from vessels. Vessels with a toilet fitted should install a holding tank. Portable toilets may represent the easiest solution on small boats, as they require minimal space, are reliable, inexpensive and easy to operate. Never discharge raw sewage from holding tanks or portable toilets into the waterways.

Simply go before you leave, and use onshore public toilets whenever possible.  An approved onboard sewage treatment system can also be used, but remember that the discharge of treated sewage is only allowed outside “no-discharge” zones. Never discharge treated sewage in inland waterways or areas within 500 metres of moorings, marinas, anchorages, swimming beaches or aquaculture sites.

Pump-out Facilities: Public pump-out facilities have increased in number and are provided in a variety of locations. Some marinas also provide private pump-out facilities for their clients and occasionally other vessels (a fee may apply).

Click on your state below for a list of pump-out facilities.

NSW  |  VIC  |  QLD

SA contact your local council

WA contact your local council


By following correct refuelling procedures, you can avoid fuel spills.  Refuelling ashore is always the preferred option as opposed to refuelling on water.  Where possible, fill up at a service station on the way to the launch site. 

Either way, the follow recommendations should be followed.

  • Check that the dispensing point is equipped with appropriate fire fighting appliances. 
  • Put all passengers ashore and clear any refuelling equipment. 
  • Turn off pilot lights to gas refrigerators. 
  • Cut off electric power at main switch. 
  • Close all hatches and openings to prevent ingress of fumes to the hull and the bilge. 
  • Turn off all mobile phones. 
  • Place discharge bucket under air/overflow pipe. 
  • Carefully monitor the filling rate to avoid overfilling. 
  • While you are filling the tank, where possible, use your hand to check for air escaping from the vent. When the tank is nearly full, you will feel a distinct increase in airflow, which is the signal to stop filling. 
  • Have a cloth at hand to catch any spills. Use one for the filler hose and one to monitor airflow from the fuel tank vent.
  • Lift the filter hose to drain all residual fuel into the tank. 
  • Thoroughly clean up all surface spills with an absorbent cloth. 
  • Be aware that traces of fumes may remain in the lower extremities of vessel i.e. hull and bilges. 
  • If fuel has spilt into the bilges, pump the bilges manually into sealed containers or pump ashore and leave boat wide open for at least 30 minutes to vent. 
  • When completely satisfied that the boat is free of fumes, start the engine before allowing passengers aboard.

Read more on Refueling Best Practices

Sensitive Areas

Australia is home to some rare and beautiful species of marine life.  By not driving your boat across or anchoring in shallow, seagrassed areas or coastal reefs you can help preserve our precious marine environment.

Boat propellers act as harvesters to the seagrass and anchors can dislodge seagrass and damage sensitive reef areas. Use public moorings where possible.

Marine pests such as Japanese Kelp and the Northern Pacific Sea Star are another concern and can be transferred onto the hulls and propellers of boats or can attach themselves to fishing or diving gear.   If you visit an affected area, thoroughly wash your boat, fishing and diving gear afterwards and empty any seawater from your boat before moving into unaffected areas.

Boat Ramp Etiquette

A good day on the water can be spoilt by a lack of ‘boat ramp etiquette’. This refers to someone who has insufficient consideration or understanding for other ramp users, isn’t prepared and takes too long to either launch or retrieve a vessel.


Prepare your boat before approaching the ramp.  This includes loading all gear, checking fuel, removing tie-downs, fitting bungs, turning on battery switch, finding the key, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating for other boat ramp users than watching someone drive onto the apron of the ramp and begin doing all the above jobs whilst everyone waits.

When you boat is completely ready to launch, get in line and wait for your turn to use the ramp.

Always check a boat ramp before reversing down it. Check for length of ramp, drop-offs, etc.

Carefully back down the ramp and get the boat in the water quickly and calmly.  

When launching use a long rope secured to the bow to control the boat and clear other boats and trailers. On larger boats an additional rope on the stern will assist in windy or wash conditions.

Have someone on board to immediately start the boat and/or move it way from the ramp so the next person can proceed.   Park your car and return to your waiting boat that has been moved away from the ramp (the sand or nearby jetty) is a good option.


Extra care and patience are needed when returning to the ramp at the end of the day.   Tempers can fray easily after a day of sun and excitement.  Children will be tired.  Alcohol can cause unhelpful behaviour so try to stay calm and be as prepared as you possibly can.

Organise your gear whilst underway back to the ramp, not once you get there.

Approach slowly in congested areas for the safety of yourself and others.

Queue on a sandy beach if possible or make sure you identify who is before and after you.  Honest mistakes can occur but good communication prevents unnecessary aggravation and “pushing-in”.

Unload passengers and have someone get the car and trailer and wait in the car queue until it is your turn, whilst you stay with the boat.

When it is your turn, move quickly and carefully to get the boat out of the water.

After retrieval, immediately move well away from the ramp before unloading gear and preparing the boat and trailer for the trip home.

Check tyres, lights, tie-downs, wheel bearings and couplings before leaving home and on arrival and departure at the ramp, also at any stops on the way (check bearings by touching the hub with the back of the hand – if too hot to touch – the bearing has failed).

As a quick check on the bearings, jack the trailer and spin the wheel. Any noise or roughness indicates trouble.

Overall Boat Ramp Tips

  • Only use designated boat ramps and launching areas.
  • Launch and Retrieve is a simple process.  Try not to overcomplicate things as it will only lead to frustration and panic.  Patience and preparation are key.
  • Visit the ramp prior to launch and watch for any unofficial procedures that many individual ramps have.   Familiarise yourself with the ramp slope and water depth
  • A ‘test’ run on a quieter weekday is a great idea for newcomers.  You will feel less pressured and more relaxed if there is no one waiting whist you conduct your first launch.
  • Be patient and offer assistance to anyone having difficulty at the ramp.  The same applies if you are new to the ramp or are not sure of the procedure – ask someone.
  • Take extreme care when reversing.  Ensure there is no one behind you.  Make sure the brake is on and the car is in gear once the boat is in position.
  • Don’t cause unnecessary delay to others waiting in line.
  • Always work with your crew to make launching and retrieval a smooth and efficient process.
  • Be well prepared and know your launching/retrieving routine.  A checklist will help you proceed quickly through each task without forgetting something important.

Engine Maintenance

A well-maintained engine ensures that your boat is not emitting pollutants.

Phosphorous Detergents

Phosphorous is damaging to aquatic ecosystems.  Use low or non-phosphate soaps in sinks and showers.  Look for an “eco friendly” alternative in the supermarket. Wipe food off cooking utensils and plates with a paper towel before washing up. 

Click below for more information from Government resources:

NSW  |  QLD  |  VIC  |  SA  |  WA