A National Dugong & Turtle Protection Plan is essential to manage the decline in dugong and turtle numbers. This is an initiative the Coalition has been advocating for some time. Bipartisan support for a pro-active and realistic plan is necessary to save these majestic creatures from extinction.
I have worked very closely with traditional owners including James Epong, local campaigner Colin Riddell and Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage Greg Hunt to establish a national plan that is in the best interest of all parties.
These beautiful animals need to be protected from unnecessary slaughter and the black market meat trade. A recent announcement was made at the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals in Abu Dhabi that dugong face extinction globally within the next 40 years. This is alarming.
The threat and challenge around the world is that these magnificent, iconic species will not be available and will not be part of the world to be inherited by our grandchildren.
It is reported that over 2,000 dugongs are being killed each year in Queensland waters alone. In Mauritius, in Taiwan, in many of the straits of Indonesia and in many other parts of the world, the dugong has already suffered local extinction.
It is going to happen in North Queensland too unless something is done at the national level, because the threats and the challenges to these magnificent species mean that we could have another Tasmanian Tiger on our hands if we are not vigilant.
The Coalition went to the recent federal election with a $2.6 million plan that would enable Indigenous Rangers and additional officers to step up practical and effective efforts to protect the key species and we now need the Labor Government to back this plan so we can achieve a positive outcome.
The traditional owners are just as concerned about the decline in numbers of these iconic creatures as we are. I have received a number of calls from indigenous rangers in the Torres Strait who are dismayed at the fact that they don’t have the authority to enforce anything when they see people doing the wrong thing. These rangers are begging for assistance and the TO’s are the best people to facilitate the management of their own land and animals, this is what they do best. Our role needs to be to assist them in achieving the best outcome.
The first step will be to introduce a moratorium so a thorough count of the dugongs and turtles can take place as all parties agree that the data we are working with is outdated. We need to know what we are dealing with in terms of ‘real numbers’ and a moratorium needs to be put in place so an official count can provide this much needed evidence. We need to act now.