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

Dugong Communique: Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, Brisbane


14 August 1997
(96/97)

The GBR Ministerial Council today finalised the establishment of a chain of dugong sanctuaries in the southern GBR region. Establishment of the sanctuaries is an historic step in efforts to save the dugong and protect the world heritage values of the GBR. The move follows scientific evidence of a dramatic decline in dugong numbers between Cooktown and Hervey Bay.

The Ministerial Council is chaired by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Senator the Hon Robert Hill and includes the Commonwealth Minister for Tourism and Queensland Ministers for Environment and Tourism. The Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Forestry also attended this meeting.

The Ministerial Council has established a two tiered system of Dugong Protected Areas (DPAs).

Zone A DPAs include:

- Hinchinbrook Island region
- Cleveland Bay area
- Upstart Bay area
- Newry region
- Ince Bay
- Shoalwater Bay-Port Clinton region
- Hervey Bay-Great Sandy Strait region

An expert scientific committee has advised the Zone A DPAs represent the most significant dugong habitat in the southern GBR region. In Zone A DPAs gill netting will not be permitted. In Hervey Bay existing specialised netting practices will be allowed to continue with modifications as proposed by fishermen.

Zone B DPAs include:

- Taylors Beach area
- Bowling Green Bay
- Upstart Bay - western foreshore area
- Edgecumbe Bay
- Northern Repulse Bay
- Sand Bay area
- Llewellyn Bay
- Clairview region
- Rodds Bay area
In Zone B DPAs rigorous safeguards in relation to gill netting practices will be enforced. The effectiveness of these measures will be kept under on-going review to ensure protection of dugong in these areas.

Maps showing the boundaries of the DPAs will be available from GBRMPA (Craig Sambell 077 818846 or 018 180760).

The Ministerial Council also agreed that appropriate compensation will be paid to fishers affected by the establishment of Zone A DPAs. Efforts were made to minimise the impact on the fishing industry. In this respect the Ministerial Council recognised the significant contribution made by the Queensland Commercial Fishermens Organisation (QCFO) to the process of advising the Council.

It is expected that the decision of the Ministerial Council will be implemented by the end of 1997.

The establishment of the dugong sanctuary system and the modifications to fishing practices represent a major step forward in the protection of world heritage values (such as dugong) and in the promotion of an ecologically sustainable fishing industry.

The decision of the Ministerial Council was reached after considering advice from an independent advisory group headed by Professor Tor Hundloe and including representatives from the Commonwealth and Queensland, QCFO and eminent scientists.

While the Ministerial Council agreed that mesh netting was a cause of dugong mortality, it also recognised the need to take further steps to address other threats to dugong. Action is currently being taken to address these other threats including Indigenous take, shark netting, speed boats and illegal hunting as well as steps to protect seagrass.

Contact: Matt Brown, Senator Hill's office, 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia