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


11 January 1998

Federal Environment Minister, Senator Hill, has welcomed the entry into force of regulations creating the world's first chain of dugong sanctuaries.

The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council agreed in 1997 to create a two-tiered system of dugong sanctuaries as part of an emergency strategy to halt the decline in dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef region.

"Dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef have fallen by between 50-80% since the early 1980s. The creation of these sanctuaries provides renewed confidence that the decline can be halted."

Measures to implement the sanctuary system will enter into force on 12 January 1998. Under these measures, forms of mesh netting which represent a risk to dugong will be prohibited in Zone A Dugong Protected Areas. In Zone B Areas, relevant fishing practices will be modified. Other threats to dugong, such as indigenous hunting and loss of seagrass, are also being addressed. A map of the sanctuary system is attached. (not available on Internet)

Senator Hill described the establishment of the dugong sanctuaries as a turning point in the battle to save dugongs in the southern Great Barrier Reef.

"Dugong are recognised as one of the values for which the Great Barrier Reef was world heritage listed and Australia therefore has an international responsibility to protect dugong. Australia has discharged this responsibility by creating the world's first system of protected areas designated specifically for the conservation of dugong."

The creation of the sanctuaries was based upon the best available scientific evidence and included independent analysis by an advisory group reporting direct to the Ministerial Council.

"I am pleased that the Ministerial Council has made every effort to minimise the impact on the commercial fishing industry. Ex gratia payments are being provided this week to fishermen affected by the decision. In addition, additional payments are being made to buy-back active licences which operated in the dugong sanctuaries. These payments were approved by the Ministerial Council on the basis of advice from an Independent Assessment Panel."

"The Queensland and Commonwealth governments have worked closely together to implement an effective and responsible strategy to save dugong. The participation of key stakeholders such as the fishing industry and indigenous groups has been valuable and is appreciated by both governments."

Contact: Atticus Fleming: 0419 693 987

Commonwealth of Australia