19 Apr 2018


WWF-Australia today released dramatic pictures which capture the danger of commercial gill nets for dugongs on Australia’s east coast.

These pictures taken by an onlooker, who wants to remain anonymous, on 2 April at Llewellyn Bay just south of Mackay, show a stranded female dugong after being cut free from a commercial gill net.

“Net fishers don’t want to catch big animals like dugongs or dolphins, but sadly for these animals nets are near invisible – especially when they’re set at night in murky water just like this one,” said WWF-Australia Tropical Fisheries Manager, Jim Higgs.

“For this dugong, there was a happy ending. She was caught in the early hours of the morning and just before low tide, which meant she could keep her head out of the water long enough not to suffocate, and for the commercial fisher to remove her from the net.”

“With the return of the tide, and encouragement from the net fisher and bystander she was able to make her way back out to sea. But most dugongs and other marine wildlife like dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and marine turtles who get entangled aren’t always so lucky.”

This incident is just one example of the perils of commercial gill netting in dugong habitat, and surfaced just days after WWF-Australia launched its Net-Free North campaign to help protect one of the world’s largest populations of dugongs, in the northern Great Barrier Reef, from gill nets just like this one.

“While this dugong survived another day, that is not always the case and highlights why netting should not occur in areas supporting high populations of dugongs like the northern Great Barrier Reef.”

“At last count, the far northern quarter of the Reef supported more dugongs than the southern three quarters of the Reef, increasing the chances of entanglement. It is also home to several sawfish species that have become locally extinct in the southern parts of the state,” said Jim.

With the launch of the Net-Free North campaign, WWF-Australia is calling for the support of people to chip-in to help buy the last full-time commercial fishing net in the northern Great Barrier Reef. This will be the first step in WWF-Australia’s bid to end commercial gill netting in the Far North and to create an 85,000-square kilometre net free haven for the dugongs living there.

To show support for a Net-Free North, please visit www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/net-free-reef