Dugong shep­herds

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - SAM SMALLBONE RICHARD KOSER

A FISH­ER­MAN was caught red­handed at the Cooya Beach boat ramp last week with a large Hump­head Maori Wrasse hid­den in­side the cabin of his boat.

The Port Dou­glas pa­trol of­fi­cers from the Queens­land Boat­ing and Fish­eries Pa­trol found the large fish while they were con­duct­ing a rou­tine pa­trol of Cooya Beach boat ramp about 7.30pm last Thurs­day.

The fish­er­man’s ves­sel car­ry­ing the 1.2m wrasse, weigh­ing 35kg, was re­turn­ing from a fish­ing trip on Tongue Reef off Port Dou­glas.

“Hump­head Maori Wrasse is an iconic reef species found through­out Asia-Pa­cific,” a spokesman from Fish­eries Queens­land said.

“They have a high com­mer­cial value and as such, are vul­ner­a­ble to sig­nif­i­cant fish­ing pres­sure.

“In recog­ni­tion of this,

the

eco-war­riors who took on the Ja­panese whal­ing fleet have a new threat in their sights - cru­elty against dugongs.

The Sea Shep­herd en­vi­ron­men­tal group, which ear­lier this month de­clared vic­tory against the Ja­panese, have said they may head to North Queens­land to tackle the il­le­gal and in­hu­mane hunt­ing of the en­dan­gered dugong pop­u­la­tion.

When they get here, they may run into an old friend, Peter Bethune.

Mr Bethune was a Sea Shep­herd skip­per at the helm of their fu­tur­is­tic “stealth boat” the Ady Gill when it col­lided with a Ja­panese whal­ing ship in the South­ern Ocean last year.

The col­li­sion de­stroyed the multi-mil­lion dol­lar Ady Gill, and Mr Bethune later spent sev­eral months in prison in Ja­pan for board­ing the Ja­panese whal­ing ves­sel and at­tempt­ing to ar­rest the skip­per.

Sea Shep­herd’s Aus­tralian spokesman Jeff Hansen con­firmed the so­ci­ety was now con­sid­er­ing join­ing the cam­paign to pro­tect the Far North’s en­dan­gered dugong pop­u­la­tion from il­le­gal hunt­ing.

"It’s def­i­nitely some­thing that we’re look­ing at. It’s on our radar," Mr Hansen said.

The Aus­tralian di­rec­tor of Mr Bethune’s newly formed Eco­race Con­ser­va­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Michael Dal­ton, said the New Zealan­der would speak to lo­cal stake­hold­ers to de­ter­mine what he could do to help pro­tect dugongs and sea tur­tles.

“We’ll be talk­ing to Bob Ir­win as well to see what we can do from a new con­ser­va­tion group’s point of view to help out and get our weight be­hind it,” Mr Dal­ton said.

The news comes as yet an­other dugong was found washed up on a far north­ern beach ear­lier this month.

Gotcha: War­ren Egling with the maori wrasse he seized from a fifi sher­man’s boat

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