ACTION ALERT - 30 january 2008
keep fatal nets out of dugong protection areas
In response to a dramatic population decline of dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in 1997 the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council made inroads into ameliorating their primary threat by banning or greatly restricting the use of commercial netting in 4,650 km2 of significant dugong habitat in a number of declared Dugong Protection Areas (DPA).
Now the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI) is reviewing the management plan of the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery, and is considering relaxing the prohibitions in DPAs in Queensland waters within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), by allowing the use of gillnets in Zone A DPAs, those which currently have the strictest provisions, and consistently contain over 50% of dugongs in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Commercial fishing gill nets have long been identified as a major cause of mortality in dugongs, and the establishment of DPAs was made in accordance with the best scientific evidence, assessed by an advisory group comprised of representatives from Federal and State Government, the scientific community, and the commercial fishing industry. Commercial fishers who were affected by the prohibitions were duly financially compensated.
Population estimates have determined that the current population of dugongs within the GBRMP is already at 5% of their estimated abundance 45 years ago, with human-induced mortality, particularly from commercial fishing nets, believed to be the major cause. At current levels, this population of dugongs can only withstand a rate of mortality of 1-2% every year, yet even with net prohibitions in place, 15 dugong deaths were reported between January and October 2007 alone. With the dugongs in the southern Great Barrier Reef region considered to be critically endangered, it is ludicrous for the Queensland DPI to consider allowing the use of fatal gillnets in significant dugong habitats.
Send your comments on the re-introduction of commercial fishing nets into declared Dugong Protection Areas to East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery RIS Response, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, GPO Box 46, Brisbane Qld 4001 or by fax to 07 3229 8146. Send a copy of your submission to The Hon. Peter Garrett MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 or by email to Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au
Points to make in your submission:
Â§ Australia has the largest proportion of the remaining global population of dugongs in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and this population is in a state of rapid decline.
Â§ Even with net prohibitions currently in place in Dugong Protection Areas, this dugong population is suffering unsustainable mortality through human-induced causes.
Â§ Zone A DPAs consistently contain over half of all the dugongs in the southern Great Barrier Reef, so the likelihood of incidental capture is immense.
Â§ Queensland DPI states that mitigation against the capture of dugongs in fishing nets within DPAs will be achieved through the fishers remaining with their nets in order to release them if capture occurs. Not only is it unlikely that fishers will remain with their nets, but this also ignores the fact that dugongs are large and powerful wild animals that are known to panic when netted, escape approaching boats and resist human interference. It is likely that any attempt to release a captured dugong would be both life-threatening to the dugong and highly dangerous for the fisher.
Â§ Australia has an international obligation under a Memorandum of Understanding for the conservation and management of dugongs signed under the auspices of the Convention of Migratory Species to reduce the incidental capture and mortality of dugongs during fishing activities. This will only be achieved by maintaining, or further implementing spatial closures for harmful fishing gear.
Please send us copies of any responses you receive.