JOINT MEDIA RELEASE WITH HON MICHAEL KEENAN MP, MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
An investigation into the practice of environmental crime, including the illegal killing, poaching and transportation of turtle and dugong meat, will soon be underway as part of the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.
Through the new Reef Trust, the Government is providing $5 million towards a Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan, including $2 million for the Australian Crime Commission to understand the nature and extent of environmental crime and, where applicable, intervene against illicit wildlife traffickers.
“Safeguarding our iconic reef species is part of our commitment to improving the health of the Great Barrier Reef and ensuring its long term protection,” Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt said.
“I am delighted that the Australian Crime Commission has taken on this important task.”
The Australian Crime Commission will work with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, state and territory law enforcement agencies and Commonwealth, state and territory departments responsible for environmental protection matters. Community groups and Traditional Owner groups will also play a key role as the investigation gets underway.
Federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, said the Australian Crime Commission had established a Wildlife Environmental Crime Team (WECT) to collect and analyse information and criminal intelligence, and identify potential opportunities for intervention against illicit wildlife traffickers.
“The WECT will enhance the understanding of wildlife and environmental crime around the Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait. This will include understanding methodologies, persons of interest, links to organised crime, including additional criminality associated with wildlife and environmental crime such as money laundering and drug trafficking,” Minister Keenan said.
“The scope of the WECT will initially extend from the Torres Strait Islands and down the Queensland coast and will involve engagement with stakeholders, Indigenous communities, NGOs, academic institutions and international authorities as required.”
Investigations will not focus on Indigenous hunting of species. Native species, including protected species, may be legally hunted by traditional owners under the Native Title Act for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. National environment law does not limit the legal entitlement or regulate the methods for hunting these animals.
“To further support our commitment, the Government has introduced legislation that would provide additional protection for dugong and turtle populations from the threats of poaching, illegal trade and illegal transportation,” Minister Hunt said.
“The proposed amendments would increase the financial penalties and civil penalty provisions relating to listed dugong and turtles and deter people from committing offences.
“The Government is committed to the protection of threatened species, which is why we recently appointed Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner to bring a new national focus to the conservation efforts for Australia’s endangered native flora and fauna.”
The Government has committed $40 million to the Reef Trust, which is now delivering projects along the Great Barrier Reef that improve water quality and enhance the protection of threatened and migratory species.