Organisations are calling for an investigation after four dugongs and a groper have been found “suspiciously” dead across Queensland within the month.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) are calling for action after the five threatened mammals washed up dead, all in September.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
On September 5, a dead dugong was found at Beaver Rock, on September 12 a dead dugong and groper found in the Upper Mary River, and on September 19 a dead dugong was found at Archies Beach, with another found on Rainbow Beach.
With one dugong washing up on Rainbow Beach with a heavy chain wrapped tightly around its tail, a Queensland Government source said it looked as though it was no innocent mistake.
“At this stage it’s believed the chain on the Rainbow Beach dugong was deliberately wrapped around its tail to weigh it down,” WWF-Australia Sustainable Fisheries Project Manager Simon Miller told The Courier-Mail.
“Either this animal became entangled in a buoy chain or someone has tried to weigh it down to avoid detection.
“Boaties have reported heavy net fishing effort in the Mary River in recent weeks.
“It’s highly suspicious that following that activity two dugongs and a groper suddenly wash up dead.”
Mr Miller said the deaths showed fishery management needed improvement across the state.
“These sad deaths emphasise why we need to see improved fisheries management in Queensland…” he said.
“The Queensland Government needs to do more to ensure the protection of our iconic marine wildlife.”
Department of Environment and Science spokesperson said based on photographs of the dugong found washed up at Archies Beach, it appears to be a normal sized adult dugong, only recently washed ashore.
The spokesperson said from the image they were not able to determine a cause of death, however injuries on the carcass were “significant”.
“Unfortunately, marine animals can die from entanglement in discarded fishing lines, crab pots and similar material,” the spokesperson said.
The local resident Kevin Hill, who captured the scene the morning of September 19, was urging other residents not to swim nearby as he alerted lifesavers.
Those in the Wide Bay Burnett Region are questioning if the horrible deaths are linked to gill nets.
AMCS Fisheries and Threatened Species Campaign Manager Tooni Mahto is concerned about the state’s act on reducing risks to threatened species, saying gill nets are an extended hazard.
“If commercial fishers did weigh this dugong down, their cruelty is a reminder of the consequences of poor fishing practices along the Queensland coast,” Mr Mahto said.
“It highlights why Federal Environment Minister Ley has intervened and will revoke the export licence of the ECIFFF (East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery),
“Horrific practices like this should be stamped out with proper monitoring, we urgently need to see an independent observer program or cameras on boats, so the public know just how many dugongs and other threatened species are being caught in commercial gill nets.”
Both WWF and AMCS are calling for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to analyse Vessel Monitoring Systems to see which fishers have been operating in the area in recent weeks, on top of a thorough investigation into the deaths.
Originally published as Animal cruelty fears in spate of marine deaths