29 July 2016


WWF-Australia said with dugongs listed ‘vulnerable to extinction’ in Queensland, four deaths in one week highlighted the need for the State Government to organise post-mortem examinations.

The details are:

  1. On Wednesday 21 September a dead dugong was found among mangroves near Armstrong Beach, south of Mackay.
  2. On Friday 23 September a researcher took a DNA sample from a dugong drowned in a commercial fishing net at Saunders Beach, north of Townsville.
  3. On Sunday 25 September a recreational fisher photographed a dead dugong near the Booral flats just south of Hervey Bay.
  4. On Tuesday 27 September another dead dugong was found south of Townsville
A dead dugong was found among mangroves near Armstrong Beach= south of Mackay on Wednesday 21 September
© Phil Bensted

The dugong death off Saunders Beach is the second fatality in that location in the past three months. In June, researchers posted pictures on Twitter of a dead animal with suspected entanglement marks.

Following the 2011 floods and cyclones, there was an estimated population of only 600 dugongs between Cooktown in the north and near Bundaberg in the south and current combined levels of mortality from all threats are thought to be unsustainable.

WWF-Australia fisheries spokesperson Jim Higgs said dugongs are under extra pressure at this time of year because the abundance of seagrass is at its seasonal lowest.

“But accurate information on whether a dugong perished because of natural causes or from boat strikes or fishing gear entanglement is extremely valuable."

“We understand the commercial fisher who found a dugong drowned in his net off Saunders Beach reported the incident and WWF commends him for doing the right thing,” he said.

But WWF expressed concern that the Queensland Government did not organise necropsies on any of the dugongs.

“An examination of the net-killed dugong would have increased our understanding of the signs that indicate drowning in fishing gear,” Mr Higgs said.

“In the case of the other animals, necropsies may have determined the cause of death. As things stand now we can never be sure."

“Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service officers should respond to dead dugong reports as a priority and must be funded to organise necropsies whenever possible."

“We must make every dugong body count."

“The plight of dugongs and other at risk species drives home the need for electronic vessel tracking, better information and reporting, and the re-introduction of an independent fisheries observer program to monitor fishing activities,” he said.

Media contacts:

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, msymons@wwf.org.au

Twitter: @marksymo