Call to protect dugongs
COMPLAINTS about illegal fishing nets are falling on deaf ears, with Cairns Regional Council demanding the State Government do more to protect dugongs and turtles.
Councillors yesterday called for a tougher stand against illegal hunters and poachers as Queensland Fisheries revealed only 2 per cent of complaints it received over the past two years about illegal netting across the state resulted in illegal unattended nets being retrieved and destroyed. Most nets were retrieved from Cairns.
Conservationists, traditional owners and the fishing industry agree not enough is being done to prevent dugongs and turtles from being killed in Far North Queensland’s waters.
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Three dugongs were killed after they were trapped in a net off Cairns last Friday.
A fourth dugong trapped in the net and still alive was released back into the water.
The black net appeared to be a fishing net which, given the tide and wind, was presumed to have drifted from the Cairns harbour.
Queensland Fisheries has received 646 complaints about illegal fishing nets since 2008, all relating to size, areas of use and nets not being attended.
During this time, the department has retrieved and destroyed 15 illegal unattended nets, nine of which were found in Cairns.
A Fisheries spokeswoman said not all complaints could be substantiated, as there was not enough detail for each matter to be investigated.
The council passed a motion yesterday that it would write to the State Government requesting more vigorous enforcement of the existing laws in relation to fishing nets, illegal hunters and poachers of dugongs and turtles.
Cr Dr Forsyth said it did not appear enough was being done to prevent the needless deaths.
WWF Australia policy manager Cliff Cobbo said increased capacity was needed in areas such as Cairns to conserve threatened marine species and police activities such as the
illegal harvest of turtles and dugongs.
Traditional owners have the right to hunt dugong through traditional means but netting is banned.
Leichhardt LNP candidate Warren Entsch, who had seized a net used for the illegal capture of dugongs, said there was too much confusion about which authority was responsible for patrolling illegal netting.
"It’s not under the same realm as regulation of recreational fishers," Mr Entsch said.
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Sad loss: One of the dead dugongs carried in by a navy vessel last Friday. Picture: MARC McCORMACK
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