16 Nov 2023


WWF-Australia welcomes a commitment by the Queensland Government to end commercial gillnet fishing in Dugong Protection Areas in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by early 2024.

The Queensland Government established the Future Fishing Taskforce to advise on its plan to permanently phase-out commercial gillnet fishing in the Great Barrier Reef by mid-2027 and transition to more sustainable fishing practices.

Released today, the taskforce’s report provides a roadmap to implement this reform, including a recommendation to end commercial gill netting in all Dugong Protection Areas by next year instead of 2027.

The Queensland Government has agreed to implement the taskforce’s recommendations.

WWF-Australia’s Head of Oceans, Richard Leck said this would provide the immediate protection that dugongs and other threatened marine species desperately need.

“The Reef’s threatened marine wildlife cannot afford to wait another three years,” he said.

“Despite their name, commercial gillnet fishing still happens in many Dugong Protection Areas. These areas were declared more than 20 years ago to protect these species, yet many vulnerable animals continue to be entangled and drowned.

WWF has been calling for immediate protection from commercial gill nets in these areas and today’s commitment delivers on that.”

The Future Fishing Taskforce report also recommends greater compensation and support for commercial fishers to transition out of the fishery by 2027. 

Mr Leck said WWF supports the report’s recommendations.

“WWF recognises that recent months have been a time of challenges and uncertainty for commercial fishers, so we are pleased to support the government’s plans to assist fishers through comprehensive financial support, retraining of crew and refitting of vessels,” he said. 

“These commitments strike the right balance between boosting protection for the Reef’s precious wildlife, while also fairly and equitably supporting commercial fishers.

It’s heartening that in a few years we’ll have a Net-Free Reef where dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other threatened species can swim without the threat of gill net entanglement.

This will help us to Regenerate Nature by 2030, while creating new opportunities for recreational fishing and tourism.

As commercial gillnet fishing is phased out, it’s also vital for the Queensland Government to invest in and guide development of a world class, sustainable, land-based aquaculture industry to maintain local seafood supply and boost export opportunities. We also welcome the funding commitment to this goal in today’s announcement.”

WWF-Australia and its supporters have led a seven-year campaign to create a Net-Free Reef where dugongs and other marine wildlife can be free from commercial gill nets.