Tourists fined $1500 for dog act on Great Barrier Reef national park

Rangers photographed the couple carrying out the illegal act on the restricted area in Queensland.

A picture taken at Michaelmans Cay. If you look closely it's possible to see a couple and their kelpie on the beach.
A couple were caught taking their dog onto Michaelmans Cay, a restricted area on the Great Barrier Reef. Source: DES

A couple’s illegal dog act in an Australian national park has landed them in court where they were ordered to pay over $1,500.

A photo supplied by rangers shows what they did wrong. You’ll need to zoom in, but if you look beyond the buoy with the sooty tern on it, and past the shallow reefs, it’s possible to make them out at the edge of the sandy island.

As you can see, the pair were caught by rangers lounging on the beach with their pet kelpie just metres from a flock of protected seabirds.

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Rangers say entering the restricted zone at Michaelmas Cay, a national park situated 40 kilometres northeast of Cairns, could have scared away parent birds and caused their chicks or eggs to die from sun exposure and predation. The sandy stretch is one of the region’s most important breeding grounds and during nesting season it’s home to 20,000 birds.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife’s Dan Schaper said visitors to islands around the Great Barrier Reef have a responsibility to know where they can’t take their pets.

Brown noddies (left) and gannets (right) are among the protected birds that nest on Michaelmans Cay. Source: Getty
Brown noddies (left) and gannets (right) are among the protected birds that nest on Michaelmas Cay. Source: Getty

“In general, if part of a national park is closed, it is closed for good reason, either to keep people safe or to protect the environment. We also don’t allow pets into national parks because they can carry diseases or injure protected wildlife,” he said.

“In this case, Michaelmas Cay provides critical habitat and breeding grounds for seabirds, which nest all year round on the coastal outcrops and can be easily disturbed by people and especially by domestic animals.”

The couple were caught taking their dog onto the island in 2022, but they only faced court last Thursday. The department of environment (DESI) released details of the case this week to remind other tourists not to make the same mistake.

The man was fined $300 and ordered to pay $551 in court proceedings, while his partner was given a $200 fine and ordered to pay $450 in court proceedings.

If you’re thinking of visiting Michaelmas Cay you can find out more about what rules you’ll need to respect here.

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