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

Hill Welcomes Dugong Strategy

16 June 1997

The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment welcomed the decision of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council to prohibit gill netting in agreed Dugong Protection Areas.

The Ministerial Council also agreed that where the loss of gill netting capacity affects individual fishers, appropriate compensation should be considered.

"Dugong are one of the values for which the Great Barrier Reef was listed under the World Heritage Convention. We have an obligation to prevent the loss of dugong in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Numbers have been reduced by between 50% and 80% over the last decade and are barely sustainable.

"Ultimately the Ministerial Council accepted that the only option which would ensure the survival of dugong was to exclude netting from certain areas. The final boundaries of the dugong protected areas will be determined over the next two months."

Senator Hill acknowledged the efforts of the fishing industry in developing its own dugong conservation strategy.

"I believe the industry is genuinely committed to addressing issues such as dugong conservation. However, the scientific evidence indicated that the industry's own strategy would not protect the remaining animals."

Senator Hill indicated that the decision to exclude gill netting from areas was taken after careful consideration and extension consultation and was based on the best available scientific evidence. Industry itself has indicated that over 900 fishers were invited to contribute to the development of strategies to protect dugong.

The Ministerial Council has agreed that where individual fishers are adversely affected, appropriate compensation should be paid.

"The appropriate industry adjustment regime will be determined over the next two months. The process for determining this regime will be transparent and open, and industry will be fully involved."

Senator Hill rejected claims by the Queensland Commercial Fishermen's Organisation that the decision would cost 1,000 jobs and cost $10 million per year.

"The figures quoted by QCFO are an extraordinary exaggeration. The statements ignored the following facts:

- the bans will apply only in limited areas;

- the bans will apply only to one type of fishing activity - gill netting. Licensed fishermen are permitted to undertake a range of other activities, such as crabbing, and these will not be prohibited;

- the bans will not mean that all affected fishermen will be forced out of the industry.'

Senator Hill indicated that both the Commonwealth and Queensland were committed to further development of a sustainable fishing industry within the region, but a sustainable industry consistent with conserving the world heritage values.

Atticus Fleming, 06 277 7640; 0419 693 987

Dugong Communique: Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, Cairns, 14 June 1997

The GBR Ministerial Council has agreed that it will be necessary to ban gill-netting in agreed Dugong Protected Areas.

The Ministerial Council is chaired by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment Senator Robert Hill, and includes the Commonwealth Minister for Tourism and Queensland Ministers for Environment and Tourism.

Ministers reached this conclusion after considering further evidence of the unsustainable decline in dugong numbers in the southern Great Barrier Reef. The Ministerial Council accepted that gill-netting is a significant cause of the decline.

Ministers agreed in principle that where loss of gill-netting capacity affects individual fishers, appropriate compensation should be considered.

Ministers will meet again in two months to finalise the boundaries of the areas in which gill-netting is to be banned and the appropriate industry adjustment mechanism. The areas under consideration are those identified in the attached document.

The Ministers issued an investment warning advising caution against investment in equipment and infrastructure used for mesh netting operations in these areas.

The Ministerial Council also agreed:

Contact: Atticus Fleming, Senator Hill's Office, 0419 693 987

Attachment (not available on Internet)

Location of Interim Dugong Protection Areas and Those Proposed in the GBRMPA Report in Southern GBR & Hervey Bay

Commonwealth of Australia