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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Urgent Action Taken on Dugong Decline


4 December 1996
(172/96)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has unveiled a new rescue strategy aimed at arresting and reversing the alarming decline in dugong numbers in the Great Barrier Reef.

The historic strategy will establish a dugong sanctuary system along the Queensland coast.

Senator Hill says the strategy represents the turning point in the battle to save the dugong.

Dugongs are beautiful and graceful mammals - recognised as a world heritage value on the Great Barrier Reef. This government is committed to taking urgent action to protect the dugong.

The number of dugongs which inhabit the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area south of Cooktown has fallen by 50- 80% in the last ten years. Gillnetting, along with habitat loss, shark meshing and indigenous hunting, represent the greatest threats to dugong.

The strategy builds on the Government's recent announcement of a draft management plan for Shoalwater Bay which will prohibit all forms of gillnetting in the Bay.

Senator Hill says he has gained support from the Queensland Government for the listing of nine Interim Dugong Protection Areas intended to form the basis of a sanctuary system.

"The dugong sanctuaries include the Hinchinbrook region, Cleveland Bay, Upstart and Ince Bays, the Newry Region and Hervey Bay. A Further two areas are to be considered for listing shortly.

"The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments have endorsed the principle that there should be dugong sanctuaries at approximately 200km intervals along the coast.

Senator Hill has also directed the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to report on the threats posed to dugongs in the nine identified sanctuaries by certain fishing practices.

"I want GBRMPA to report by February 28 1996 on what action is necessary to ensure no further dugong mortality in the nine dugong sanctuaries.

"Fishing practices which may result in dugong mortality will not be permitted in these areas.

"GBRMPA will work through this process in cooperation with the Queensland Government and the fishing industry."

Senator Hill says the sanctuary system will be supported by a number of other measures including:

The Federal Government will also examine the major loss of dugong in the Torres Strait and investigate strategies to advance their conservation.

Media contact: Matt Brown, 06 277 7640; 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia