Dugong Mortality

After Cyclone Yasi, fishermen reported emaciated, sick, lethargic dugongs and turtles with insufficient energy to escape from any accidental netting.

No moratorium on the hunting of dugong was declared by the Queensland or Federal Governments.

With growing evidence of the destruction of intertidal seagrass beds and seed banks by the cyclones in early 2011, the future survival of dugongs along the urban stretch of coastline is of major concern. Prior to the cyclones, dugong expert Professor Helene Marsh assessed dugongs in this region as ‘Critically Endangered’22.

‘Assessment: We subdivided this region for our assessment because of the size of the dugong’s range and the spatial variability of impacts (Table 8.5; Figure 8.7b): (1) urban coast of Queensland: Critically Endangered; (2) northern Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait: Vulnerable; (3) the northern tip of Cape York west to the Northern Territory border: Data Deficient; (4) north-west Cape to Shark Bay in Western Australia: Least Concern.’

Jackson et al. (2001)23 documented the declining numbers and the ramifications to the marine ecosystem: ‘Further north, numbers of dugongs in the vast southern half of the Great Barrier Reef had dwindled to fewer than 4000 when they were first accurately counted in 1986-87, with a further 50 to 80% decline in recent years (72). These increasingly fragmented populations represent the last remnants of the vast herds of the early 19th century and before.

According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Report 2009:

‘The recovery of dugongs along the urban coast will be influenced by the state of seagrass habitats, their principal food source. Inshore seagrass beds are particularly vulnerable to disturbance and loss due to coastal activities such as reclamation, dredging and other foreshore development, increased sedimentation and degraded water quality.

The Report assesses recovery of the urban coast dugong population as poor and very prolonged: ‘may take more than a century to recover and is subject to many continuing pressures.’

Scientists recommended urgent surveys be undertaken to establish the location of any viable seagrass beds, ensuring these areas are given immediate protection until such time as the ongoing crises are resolved.



The deliberate extermination of the dugong and turtles which habituated the Gladstone area is a national tragedy.

These are species listed under the Federal Environment Protection Biodiversity & Conservation Act.
That listing means the Federal government has a legal obligation to protect these animals.
Prior to the massive dredging operation of 52 million cubic metres of seabed for the development of the world’s largest LNG Terminal, ( which is 62% completed) a study commissioned by the Gladstone Ports Corporation found that a take, or a quota, of more than zero dugongs would be unsustainable.

In the face of massive mortality of dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins during the ongoing massive dredging, both the Federal and Queensland governments ignored the slaughter.

Look at the stranding data from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management.

Now is the time to get involved ! Healthy oceans are the source of all life.

Now is the time to get involved ! Healthy oceans are the source of all life.



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