The Dugong populations off Townsville will benefit from changes to Great Barrier Reef Marine Park regulations on commercial net fishing, which will become effective from today.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said Burdekin commercial fishers proposed the changes to the Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Area in Bowling Green Bay, working in close consultation with the Australian and Queensland Governments.
The amendments change the rules for commercial net fishing within the southern part of Bowling Green Bay. They include a 'No Netting Area' and a 'Restricted Netting Area', which limit the size of nets as well as how they are to be used.
'These amendments are in response to concerns about unsustainable levels of dugong deaths in the area,' Dr Reichelt said.
'Burdekin commercial fishers recognised the need to be proactive about reducing the risk of incidental catch of dugong in commercial fishing nets.'
'Dugong populations are under pressure. Extreme weather events last summer has killed off seagrass, their main food source.'
'The rule changes in Bowling Green Bay are an important step in dugong protection. They also demonstrate how local action and working together can result in positive outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef and the species that rely on it.'
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Commercial fishers from the Burdekin have worked with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Fisheries Queensland, Department of Environment and Resource Management and the Queensland Seafood Industry Association to bring the rule changes to a reality.
This is part of the Burdekin Regional Management Project, which encourages stewardship of local marine resources on which the community depends for livelihoods and recreation. Queensland Seafood Industry Association's Geoff Tilton said commercial fishers saw the need for action to reduce the incidental capture of dugong in the Bowling Green Bay area.
'Through the Burdekin Sustainable Fisheries Alliance these changes have been brought to a reality,' Mr Tilton said. 'This is genuine local stewardship in action.'
The amendments to commercial netting rules take place in two key locations within the area known as the Bowling Green Bay Dugong Protection Area.
The introduction of the Restricted Netting Area will require fishers to use nets that are shorter, shallower and weighted better, which reduces the risk of Dugong becoming entangled. Previously, fishers could use nets with a length of 600 metres and no restriction on the depth of the net. Now, fishers can only use three nets of 120 metres in length and with a 16 mesh drop (150mm to 245mm per mesh).
In the No Netting Area, no netting activities other than bait netting will be allowed.
A range of commercial netting activities (with low risk to dugong) are still allowed in parts of Bowling Green Bay, providing for businesses to continue operation and to supply a range of seafood products to markets.
Netting rules for other areas within Bowling Green Bay remain unchanged. The rules for other activities, including recreational fishing and other forms of commercial fishing also remain unchanged.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website