Racing a worry for dugongs
CONSERVATIONISTS say a popular boat race to be held in Cleveland Bay in July would harm an already vulnerable dugong population.
The Offshore Superboat Championships, to be held the week before the Townsville 400 V8 Supercar race, is in the crosshairs of the NQ Conservation group, who are concerned the vessel’s fast speeds are too great a risk in the known dugong habitat.
But superboat officials have hit back at the group, saying they have jumped through all the necessary legal and environmental hoops to hold a safe and responsible event.
The conservation group’s president Gail Hamilton said dugongs were already struggling enough in Cyclone Yasi’s aftermath and did not need boats travelling at 230km/ h through their habitat.
‘‘ Vessels travelling at high speed do not have the capacity to avoid a collision with marine fauna,’’ she said. ‘‘ We are particularly concerned about dugongs as t he extreme weather events this year have depleted seagrass beds along the Queensland coast, reducing the dugongs food source.’’
James Cook University Environmental Science Professor Helen Marsh backed the group’s calls, saying there could be far more dugongs than expected in the area as they search for food. ‘‘ The dugongs are likely to have limited options to find food south of Cape York,’’ she said.
Ms Hamilton said Cleveland Bay was a designated Dugong Protection Area.
But Offshore Superboat Championship President Adam Gilbert said yesterday that his committee had been running a successful event for five years.
‘‘ The Offshore Superboat Championship adheres to a policy and procedure code and that does entail a sweeping lap prior to the commencement of the start ( to check for hazards),’’ he said.