Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Turtles and dugongs protected with new indigenous partnership

Joint Media Statement
Thursday, February 09, 2012

Queensland's most precious marine life will be further protected with a new $5 million Indigenous community partnership to employ six new Indigenous rangers and develop sustainable-take protocols for Traditional Owner hunting.

Environment Minister Vicky Darling and Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall announced the Commonwealth-funded partnership in Cairns today at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Ms Darling said the comprehensive package of protection measures, which included more closely examining allegations of illegal poaching, would go a long way to looking after Queensland's turtles and dugongs.

"We are very limited in what we can do about widespread seagrass loss from last year's devastating natural disasters, but we can do something about other impacts facing these iconic species," Ms Darling said.

"This package is about supporting and growing Indigenous leadership in managing dugongs and sea country activities.

"Our dugong populations along the Great Barrier Reef coast and in the Torres Strait are under considerable threat.

"We know that a number of communities have already taken the lead on sustainable hunting practices ·they see protection of dugong as a priority and want a role in policing their own communities.

"It's imperative we act in partnership with our Indigenous communities and work together to also stamp out poaching of our precious dugongs and turtles.

"Unfortunately we often hear of illegal hunting, but there is insufficient information to progress legal action.

"Compliance training will be a key part of the program so communities and traditional owners are aware of how to gather key evidence that can lead to prosecution of illegal poachers.

"They will be better equipped to be our eyes and ears.

The funding has been provided by the Commonwealth and will be managed by the Queensland Government.

Mr Wettenhall said the $5 million program will provide vital training to empower communities to further develop protocols on sustainable-take.

"There needs to be a community-by-community approach to dugong and turtle management and this initiative sets out the framework to do this," Mr Wettenhall said.

"Our six new rangers will be on the water working with traditional owners to build on their expertise about how to manage for country.

"They will also conduct habitat surveys, look at seagrass health and monitor turtle and dugong populations.

"We will develop networks with community leaders so there are opportunities to develop ways to stop poaching and share experiences in managing dugong populations.

"Rangers will work with local communities and share their expertise on species management, compliance activities, and strengthen relationships between traditional owner groups and relevant bodies.

"QPWS rangers will provide a key link in informing other rangers and community members on the sustainable management dugong and marine turtle.

"Rangers would also conduct school and community talks and presentations when visiting each community.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the partnership was important to ensure the long-term sustainability of turtles and dugongs.

"This project, from beginning to end is about Indigenous leadership," Mr Burke said.

"It will foster greater leadership and education in Indigenous communities in regard to sustainable traditional dugong and turtle hunting.

"The knowledge of Traditional Owners is crucial to our ongoing management of dugongs and sea-country in Queensland."

Approximately $2.5 million will be used to implement the Cape York Sea Country strategy to develop community-based management plans and legal frameworks and to develop the capacity of Cape York traditional owners to manage sea country effectively.

An investment of $700,000 will go to compliance training and data collection and monitoring.

A $300,000 Sea Country Network will be set up so traditional community leaders have a forum to share experiences in managing dugong populations and discuss ways to work together to stop illegal poaching and $1 million will fund the six Indigenous ranger positions.

There will also be grants for traditional owners to undertake sea country activities that are local priorities.

The details of the partnership will be finalised in coming months ·however it is important that the community know we are serious about protecting and managing our vulnerable species.