Dugong death ‘net effect’
A DEAD dugong washed up on Cooya Beach last week has reignited debate over gill netting and highlighted its impact on the local fish, dugong and turtle population.
While the dugong has no markings to prove the cause of death, coordinator for the Network for Sustainable Fishing in the Douglas region David Cook, who has spent 25 years in commercial fisheries, believes the dugong was drowned by a net.
“Dr Jennie Gilbert examined the photo of the dead dugong and said a starved dugong has a look about it - the head has a very distinct sunken shape like a peanut and that animal didn’t,” he said.
“I think the most likely cause of death was nets, I have had reports there is a significant level of illegal netting going on in addition to legal netting.”
There has been a significant decline over the past decade in the numbers of different species of inshore fish, including trevally, queenfish, milkfish, blue and king salmon, grey mackerel and barramundi.
“Anybody who’s been around here for than 10 years is aware the big schools of a number of these species of fish is no longer to be found,” Mr Cook said.
“There are different causes for this but it seems obvious we should target those methods that do the most damage and with the fewest number of benefits like net fishing.
“We have a closed season for barra, but the offshore boats can continue to net throughout this season and of course nets don’t differentiate between size and species.”
Mr Cook encourages line fishing instead to lessen the impact on the marine environment.
“Lining never actually decimated schools of grey mackerel that congregate annually off Snapper Island to spawn,” he said.
“In 2006/07 because of big netters, two commercial line fishers got one day’s catch in the entire two seasons but because the netters have stayed away for three years, this year we have had reasonable catches.
“Under present management regulation, Queensland Fisheries is unable to regulate the amount of netting down in any particular place.
“The big netters need to stay away because our resources are really suffering.”
The Federal Government has called for any public concerns about the environmental effects and sustainability of the east coast fin fishery and all submissions need to be received by October 21.
Address your email to director of the sustainable fisheries sector Nathan Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ffc.org.au/ Grey_Mackeral.html for more information.
Netting blamed: the dead dugong found on Cooya Beach