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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says Australia's continuing efforts to protect dugong have been further assisted by an international ban on commercial trade in the species.
The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has voted in favour of an Australian proposal to include our population of Dugong on Appendix I of CITES.
Senator Hill welcomed the decision, saying it would outlaw commercial trade in Dugong species.
"Until now, all Dugongs other than Australia's population have been listed on Appendix I and there have been reports that illegal trade in Dugong meat has occurred through claiming that the products originated from Australia," Senator Hill said.
"Thanks to the acceptance of the Australian proposal this will no longer be possible and I particularly thank the other Dugong range states for their support.
"Australia provides one of the last strongholds for the Dugong and they are recognised as one of the values for which the Great Barrier Reef was World Heritage listed.
"Australia therefore has an increased responsibility to protect them. While Australia has domestic legislation in place to prevent any trade in Dugong, our CITES proposal is an extension of that obligation, and one which has now been accepted by the international community.
"This move complements other Federal Government initiatives to protect Dugongs, including the introduction of the world's first Dugong Protection Areas.
"A system of Dugong sanctuaries along the Queensland coast was established in 1998 to restrict fishing practices in areas where the Dugong feed on seagrasses. Other threats to dugong are being addressed through research on sea grasses and consultation with indigenous communities on traditional hunting."
Senator Hill went on to say there would be increased Commonwealth protection for Dugong habitat under the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which comes into force in July this year.
April 20, 2000
Contacts: Rod Bruem (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
Tony Bigwood (Environment Australia) (02) 6274 2730