Topics: Turtle and dugong protection, threatened species protection
Illegal poachers killing dugongs and turtles in Far North Queensland are about to face tougher penalties. New laws passed in the Senate today to increase the hunting fines to up to a million dollars in Commonwealth Marine Areas. The Environment Minister is Greg Hunt.
I am determined to wipe out any residual practice of poaching of dugongs and turtles. I think what we find is that these are majestic creatures and this is breakthrough legislation.
Why the need for stricter penalties? Were you finding that you were losing the fight against poaching in Far North Queensland?
Well there was a very strong call in my meetings with the community. I found that both traditional owners, who were concerned about their good name and their history being misused by poachers. And then people elsewhere in the community were deeply, deeply worried about the problem of poaching.
Traditional owners have welcomed the move. Gavin Singleton is a project officer at the Dawul Wuru Indigenous Corporation near Cairns. He’s hoping the tougher fines will deter poachers.
We do have a lot of people who are illegally taking those kinds of marine resources. Firstly, there’s issues of the sustainability reason. It’s unsustainable. We even get into stuff like the conservation part. We also touch on the animal cruelty stuff as well.
But, he says native title holders will still want to be able to hunt dugongs in their waters.
Traditional owners, within the traditional sea country area, for those people, that’s where there’s a bit of uncertainty.
Dugongs are just one Australian species under serious threat. A new study says 21 per cent of native land mammals are threatened. Dr John Woinarski, from Charles Darwin University is the author. He warns the situation for threatened Australian mammals is catastrophic.
There’s probably about 50 species across plants and animals that we think are in danger of extinction over the next decade. The extent of the problem, I guess, we hadn’t really realised until fairly recently.
The Federal Government has also announced it’s giving $740,000 to 11 conservation projects around the country. Conservationists are working to save animals like the eastern barred bandicoot in Victoria and the western quoll in South Australia.
The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, again.
Direct, on the ground threatened species protection. In Canberra, looking at work to re-introduce the bettong onto mainland Australia. It was extinct on the mainland, it’s being re-introduced into the mainland and there are real things happening that are making a big difference in the environment and this is a pretty good outcome.
Dr John Woinarski says the new investment is needed, but there are many more animals facing an extinction calamity that won’t benefit.
So I mean, the extent of the problem’s huge and the extent of resources committed to that is nowhere sufficient at this stage. Many of those species have declined drastically over the last decade or so and they do need our help, badly.
And if we don’t provide the types of intensive management that is required now, then those species will undoubtedly disappear in the next decade or two.
That’s the conservation expert, Dr John Woinarski, ending Bridget Brennan’s report.