The cost of petrol and diesel has left many recreational fishers in Queensland unable to justify a Great Barrier Reef trip, while charters and tourism operators are struggling to break even. 

Adam Finlay said he was paying more than $2,000 just to fuel up for his charters off Townsville. 

“When we first started, we were looking at $1,200 to $1,300 a day,” he said.

The burden has hit businesses at a time when they have been trying to capitalise on the return of tourists, with the winter season approaching and no travel restrictions.

Adam Finlay Audacity Charters Townsville
Adam Finlay is paying $2,000 each time he fuels up for a charter off Townsville.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

Nikki Guimelli said she was “starting to see green shoots” at her Cairns boat hire business when petrol and diesel prices started to climb.

“You’re managing a myriad of challenges across the last 24 to 36 months,” she said.

“It’s something we probably didn’t profile, the significant increase in fuel costs.”

A marina full of cruising yachts on a calm, sunny day.
Townsville Coastguard have noticed a decline in water activity.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

The price at the bowser isn’t only hurting businesses.

For weeks it has been stinging families and individual fishers who frequent Queensland’s many outer reefs in private boats.

Townsville Coast Guard deputy commander Dave Finlay has noticed the water has been unusually quiet.

“When the price went up horrifically, a lot of boaties didn’t come out,” he said.

“They’ve got more than 300, sometimes 600-litre fuel tanks.

In the Whitsundays, where boating and fishing has long been a popular pastime, the Volunteer Marine Rescue group has been forced to introduce a fuel levy.

President Mal Priday said operating costs had risen significantly.

“If we don’t do that and we don’t charge for non-members, we’re not going to be here,” he said.

The concern for Coast Guard and Volunteer Marine Rescue groups across Queensland is that boaties have not been taking enough petrol and diesel on the water with them, while prices remain high.

A colorful chart off the Queensland coast. A hand is holding a compass to the page.
Coastguard and Volunteer Marine Rescue groups are concerned boat owners are skimping on fuel.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

“If they haven’t looked out there, there are no servos,” Mr Priday said.

“They shouldn’t be changing their buying patterns.

Despite the fuel excise cut, prices in regional Queensland remain high, at 165.6 cents a litre for unleaded and 180.7 cents a litre for diesel in Townsville.

Adam Finlay said he hoped prices would drop further so he could lure more anglers out to drop a line.

“Hopefully it does help,” he said.

“For us, it’s not about our profit margin, it’s about getting clients on board at the cheapest price possible.”

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