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Investigations, compliance training tackle illegal poaching of dugong

by GBRMPA on 18 Jul 2010
dugong iStockphoto/Dejan Sarman
Investigations and a new compliance training program are being combined in a new approach to tackle illegal poaching of dugong in the far north area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The move follows two separate incidents - a net and dugongs found by an Australian Navy vessel en route to Cairns for ANZAC Day this year, and another net found in the region by Traditional Owners soon after.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt said this combination of investigative and educational avenues would help ensure all bases were covered in addressing this issue.

'We have conducted extensive on-ground investigations in relation to both nets that appear to have been deliberately set to target dugong,' he said.

'Far north Indigenous communities have been extremely helpful in our investigations as they too have a desire to stamp out the practice of using nets to deliberately target dugongs.

'At this stage of the investigation, there is insufficient evidence to provide a brief to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to consider prosecuting the suspected offenders.

'The investigation is ongoing as are targeted compliance activities.

'As legal avenues are just one option, we are establishing a new training program to assist with compliance in the area and it will be rolled out later this year.

'Under this initiative, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be trained in monitoring their sea country and will work with Marine Park compliance officers to address any issues of non-compliance.

'We see this as a crucial component of our partnership with Traditional Owners in looking after sea country for the future.

'We are committed to working with communities to raise awareness of this issue and sustainable use, with the view of encouraging a change in behaviour.'

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will also look at further options to boost compliance in the area, including the possibility of involving Traditional Owners in boat patrols carried out in the Marine Park.

Melissa George from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee said the training was welcomed by Traditional Owners.

'The compliance training program is a positive step in the right direction and Traditional Owners have made it quite clear that they are ready to take up the challenge,' she said.

'Traditional Owners support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's approach to working collaboratively with them to address this issue.

'The message loud and clear from Traditional Owners is that this practice of using nets to target dugong is culturally inappropriate and unsustainable.

'A substantial amount of time has already been invested by Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to work collaboratively towards developing mechanisms that respect culturally appropriate, community driven approaches to managing sea country.

'People need to understand these processes take time, but working together will get a better outcome for the long-term future of the Great Barrier Reef.

'Both parties are committed to achieving long-term sustainable options.'
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