WWF-Australia fully supports Queensland’s three new net-free zones proposed for near Cairns, north of Mackay and on the Capricorn Coast.
“Removing nets from these three areas will help protect turtles, dugong and dolphins including rare snubfin dolphins,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Darren Grover.
“We know that nets can kill air-breathing marine creatures who suffer a terrible death held underwater until they drown.
“Sadly, in recent years Queensland authorities have occasionally found dead dugongs and snubfin dolphins, killed in nets, then weighed down with concrete to avoid detection.
“With no mandatory independent observer program for fishing we believe there may be many more animals being killed,” he said.
In Queensland dugongs are listed as vulnerable to extinction and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website says: “Current combined levels of mortality from all threats …are thought to be unsustainable”. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists gill netting as a major threat to dugongs.
The Great Barrier Reef is home to globally significant marine turtle populations but the six species living on the Reef are all listed as either vulnerable or endangered.
GBRMPA’s website states that snubfins are vulnerable to decline and Mr Grover said that researchers in the Fitzroy Delta report many of the resident snubfin population have marks from fishing nets.
“There are fewer than one hundred of these gentle creatures in the area and they are a genetically distinct population. The loss of just a few individuals a year could push this small population to the brink,” he said.
The Reef 2050 Plan, hailed as one of the main reasons Australia avoided an ‘in danger’ listing for the Great Barrier Reef, includes a commitment to “further protect the Fitzroy Delta … through … establishment of a new net-free zone under fisheries legislation”.
“We can’t just pick and choose which parts of Reef 2050 are put into action. Australia must follow through on all commitments, including a net-free zone, to avoid an ‘in danger’ listing in the future,” Mr Grover said.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager