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

New Action on Dugong Conservation

31 March 1997

The Howard Government has taken decisive action to stem the dramatic decline in dugong numbers in the southern region of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has released a Plan of Management for the conservation of dugongs in Shoalwater Bay as part of the Government's ongoing dugong conservation efforts.

Senator Hill says the Plan, developed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), will protect the dugongs in Shoalwater Bay from further decline.

"Shoalwater Bay is an important dugong habitat and protection of the dugong in the area will play a key part in the recovery of the species throughout the southern region of the Marine Park.

"Dugong numbers in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area south of Cooktown are believed to have declined by as much as 80% over the past ten years.

"The Government believes that there is a clear need for strong action to protect dugong.

"The Plan effectively prohibits gillnetting in Shoalwater Bay and in doing so should ensure the survival of the dugong in this critical habitat."

Senator Hill says the Plan follows a comprehensive assessment by GBRMPA of activities which pose a threat to dugong numbers.

"Development of this plan has taken into account important management actions that have been agreed with the traditional Indigenous users, the Darumbal-Noolar Corporation.

"These actions include a moratorium on hunting of dugongs by the Darumbal people while the dugong remains endangered in the region."

Senator Hill says the Plan of Management will be Gazetted on Wednesday April 2.

The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council last year identified nine interim sanctuaries for dugongs. The Council asked GBRMPA to assess what actions were necessary to ensure no further dugong mortality in these sanctuaries. The Commonwealth is currently considering that report.

Media contact: Matt Brown, 06 277 7640; 0419 693 515.

Commonwealth of Australia