WWF-Australia today called on the Queensland Government to conduct an autopsy of a dead dugong found yesterday in the Seaforth area north of Mackay.
WWF Fisheries spokesperson Jim Higgs said dugongs are listed as vulnerable to extinction and scientists believe current mortality rates are unsustainable.
“Dugong surveys reveal as few as 600 dugongs survive between Port Douglas and Bundaberg so the loss of a single animal is a serious blow to the species,” Mr Higgs said.
“At this stage it’s unclear whether the dugong died of natural causes or was killed by a commercial gill net or boat strike.
“But this incident re-enforces the need for satellite monitoring of gill net operators to be introduced.
“Satellite monitoring would tell us if commercial net operators had been fishing in the area in recent days.
“If there were none we could immediately rule out gill nets as a cause of this dugong fatality. Or alternatively, authorities would know which operators to question.
Mr Higgs said there had been an increase of nearly 600% in gill net fishing between St Helen’s Beach and Hillsborough since 2012.
WWF has been calling for the return of an independent observer program for all commercial fishing and for satellite monitoring, which already applies to trawlers, to be extended to gill net operators.
A Commonwealth Government review of the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery, which covers gill netting, is considering these measures and was due to report in February 2015.
“That report has been delayed until October and now there is talk it will be further delayed until October 2015,” Mr Higgs said.
“Such a delay is unacceptable. Threatened species such as dugongs, which are a much-loved, iconic reef animal continue to be killed. We need protective measures introduced as soon as possible,” Mr Higgs said.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571