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Coalition announces Dugong & Turtle Protection Plan



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Media Release

The Hon Greg Hunt MP Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage

Thursday 15 August 2013

Coalition announces Dugong & Turtle Protection Plan

The dugongs and turtles along the Great Barrier Reef will receive greater protection under a $5 million plan announced by the Coalition today.

Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt was joined by the Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch in Cairns to make the announcement following ongoing community concern about illegal poaching and the need for greater care of the dugong and turtle populations.

If elected, the Coalition will move quickly and constructively to implement a Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan which will work to protect the majestic dugong and turtle populations, of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands, from the threats of poaching, illegal hunting and marine debris.

As part of this important environmental and marine conservation task, the Coalition will maintain existing funding and will provide an additional $5 million for dugong and turtle protection, including:

 $2 million for specialised Indigenous Ranger Programs for marine conservation along the Far North Queensland Coast and for strengthened enforcement and compliance. This will be done through supporting additional officers on the water and on land to crack-down on dugong and turtle poaching and the illegal trade in dugong and turtle meat. The Coalition will work with the Queensland Government on the potential for extending the authority of select Indigenous Rangers to take action to stop illegal poaching;

 $2 million for an Australian Crime Commission investigation into the practice of illegal killing, poaching and transportation of turtle and dugong meat;  $700,000 towards cleaning up marine debris along the Far North Queensland Coast, the Torres Strait Islands and in the Coral Sea. Marine debris - especially

‘ghost nets’ - provide significant risks to dugongs and turtles and the Coalition will take steps to clean up these threats. The Coalition will consult, support and work with Indigenous communities in dealing with these threats; and  $300,000 to support the Cairns and Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centres. The Coalition will allocate $100,000 per year to the Fitzroy Island Turtle Hospital - run by the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre - for three years to help with capital works and to help the hospital achieve a permanent and sustainable future.

Within six months a Coalition Government will also:

 introduce Federal legislation tripling the penalties for poaching and illegal transportation of turtle and dugong meat;  establish a National Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan through the threatened species process; and  work with Indigenous leaders towards an initial two-year moratorium on the taking of

dugongs.

“The Coalition respects the traditional rights of the Indigenous community, however we will not tolerate illegal poaching of dugongs and turtles under the cover of so-called traditional hunting. We also do not support the taking of turtles and dugongs in green zones and we will work with Indigenous leaders on this issue,” Mr Hunt said.

“These actions are not supported by the Indigenous elders and we will work with them to stop this illegal practice which is impacting on dugong and turtle numbers and harming local tourism operations. The Coalition welcomed the recent action by the Queensland Government in passing legislation to outlaw cruelty to dugongs and turtles.

“I am also pleased to honour a commitment to the Fitzroy Island Turtle Hospital which I made when I visited their centre with Mr Entsch last year. They do tremendous work with a strong team of volunteers.”

Mr Entsch said the illegal slaughter of dugongs and turtles has been a significant concern of the local community.

“Not just from the impact of the numbers of dugongs and turtles, but also the negative impression it gives to tourists who have been horrified to witness turtles being killed while they should be enjoying the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Entsch said.

“I also know that funding for the Fitzroy Island Turtle Hospital will be well used in rehabilitating turtles and returning them to the sea. The clean-up of debris will assist in minimising those which are found injured and require care.”

The Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan will form part of the Coalition’s Reef 2050 Plan to ensure we have long-term and sustainable management of the Great Barrier Reef.

Media Contact: Wendy Black 0418 532 534

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