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

21 August 2001

New Hope for Dugongs in Barrier Reef


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill today released the results of a survey showing Dugong Protected Areas have provided new hope for dugongs in the southern Great Barrier Reef.

The report of the latest surveys indicates dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef have increased from an estimated 1,682 in 1994 to an estimated 3993 in 1999.

Senator Hill said survey results showed the Dugong Protected Areas have increased protection for dugongs.

"The report demonstrates a significant proportion of dugongs found in the southern Great Barrier Reef occurred in the designated sanctuaries. It also shows the Dugong Protected Areas are in the right locations," Senator Hill said.

The Howard Government established the protected areas in 1997 in collaboration with the former Queensland State Government.

"The decision to establish Dugong Protected Areas was historic - they are the world's first chain of dugong sanctuaries. These results provide the first sign that these protected areas are helping the dugong populations of the southern Great Barrier Reef to recover," Senator Hill said.

However, Senator Hill warned there was no room for complacency.

"The results need to be viewed in context. The second report I am releasing today suggests that dugong numbers in 1999 were only around three per cent of the population in 1962. The recent increase is encouraging because it provides some evidence that we may have turned the corner - but there is a long way to go."

Senator Hill said the likely reasons for the long-term decline in dugong numbers are complex and include drowning in nets (both shark nets and fishing nets), habitat loss and degradation and traditional hunting.

"A 50 to 70 per cent decline occurred between 1986 and 1994 and yet the Federal ALP Government did nothing," Senator Hill said.

In contrast, since 1996, the Howard Government has:

Senator Hill called on Premier Beattie to implement a commitment his government made in 1999 to enact complementary legislation to tighten netting rules in Dugong Protected Areas. Two years later, Beattie has still not honoured his commitment.

Copies of the reports can be obtained by contacting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority or by downloading them from the "Hot Issues" window of GBRMPA's website - www.gbrmpa.gov.au

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Media Contact: Belinda Huppatz 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258364

Commonwealth of Australia