Dugong death ‘net ef­fect’

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - AN­GELIQUE PAT­TER­SON

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 sus­tain­able­fish­eries@environment.gov.au or visit www.ffc.org.au/ Grey_Mack­eral.html for more in­for­ma­tion.

Net­ting blamed: the dead dugong found on Cooya Beach

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