Australians for Animals firmly believes Native Title cannot be allowed to trump the protection of our wildlife. The laws which protect our unique and rapidly disappearing wildlife must cover every Australian, indigenous and white alike.
Endangered means endangered. There must be no slaughter. In Australia, the killing of endangered dugongs, turtles and other species under the protection of native title is un-monitored, un-regulated and carried out with many instances of extreme cruelty.
In a newspaper article dated 15 April 201034, Dr Mark Read of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimated that there were 11,300 dugongs in the Marine Park with a maximum of 120 dugongs that could be sustainably hunted throughout the reef.
Perhaps Dr Read hadn’t read a 2003 report by the Federal Government entitled – National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey which said:-
Indigenous fishers harvested a range of species that are prohibited for non-indigenous Australians These species included reptiles (crocodiles, turtles) and mammals (dugong). It was estimated that indigenous fishers harvested about 390 crocodile, 1,600 dugong, 6,000 saltwater turtle, 14,000 freshwater turtle and 40,000 turtle eggs during the survey year. Dugong were taken in all States/ Territory with largest numbers (1,300 dugong) being reported from Queensland.
In 2009, according to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report, 1,293 dugong were “ harvested” in Queensland.
This horrendous slaughter of dugongs in Queensland is unsustainable. Yet these figures failed to persuade the Federal government to take any action to arrest the slaughter of these defenceless animals in spite of massive damage by Cyclone Yasi followed by major flooding events wiping out seagrass beds.
In the 21st century, not only must the Native Title right to slaughter endangered species be prohibited but traditional methods of killing are no longer acceptable or appropriate. The cruelty being perpetrated on dugongs and turtles must end.
The best current research estimates suggest that the numbers of green turtles could be as high as 100,000 annually. An out of date report indicates an annual slaughter of 1,500 or more dugongs in Torres Strait alone.
Dugongs are gentle creatures who are dedicated to their young. Their habitat and prey, seagrass, is critically important as fish nurseries and as a carbon sink. They should not be slaughtered to celebrate culture. Dugongs have a right to exist and future generations have a right to expect the protection of endangered animals.
“ All that will be left are the sounds of silence.”
These are the prophetic words of Aunty Mary, an elder with the Mandubarra people of Innisfail.
Aunty Mary, who along with other Aboriginal elders, is deeply concerned by the ongoing slaughter of dugongs and turtles by many indigenous people.
Ongoing efforts by State and Federal governments to transform Australia into the world’s quarry will have massive impacts on the ocean environment of both the east and west coast.
Now is the time to get involved ! Healthy oceans are the source of all life.