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Hill misleads community on dugong numbers: reports by leading dugong expert highlight the serious decline in dugong numbers.



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Senator Andrew Bartlett Senator for Queensland Australian Democrats spokesperson for Environment

Press Release Dated: 23 Aug 2001 Press Release Number: 01/491 Portfolio: Environment

Hill Misleads Community on Dugong Numbers: Reports(1) by leading dugong expert highlight the serious decline in dugong numbers.

Claims by the Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill, that dugong numbers are increasing and that the increase is due to the dugong protection areas (DPAs) created by this Government are seriously misleading, the Australian Democrats said today.

Andrew Bartlett, the Australian Democrats spokesperson for the Environment, said, “The real news is that Senator Hill has purposely misled the Australian community on the number of dugongs in Queensland waters.”

“Surveys and reports conducted by one of the world’s leading dugong experts clearly show that there has been a steady decline in the number of mammals since the 1960s. It is now estimated that the decline is around 97%.”

Senator Bartlett said, “Minister Hill has claimed that dugong populations have increased in the southern Great Barrier Reef by over 100% from 1994-1999. This is highly misleading.

“What the Minister has not admitted is that the 1999 figure is not significantly different from dugong numbers in 1986-1987.

“In other words, there is no evidence that the population has increased because of any measures taken by this government. The evidence does, however, point to a significant movement of dugong population along the Queensland coast.”

Ms Marsh and Mr Lawler’s report, Dugong Distribution and Abundance in the Southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Hervey Bay: Results of an Aerial Survey in October-December 1999 states: “We consider that the most plausible explanation for the increase observed is movement of substantial numbers of dugongs into the survey area…”.

“What is evident is that the decline in dugong numbers is far greater than previously believed, and that the Minister, instead of taking steps

to ensure that dugongs are protected, is misleading the public - and perhaps himself - by claiming that scientific reports are showing that Dugong Protection Areas are working.

“The reports are showing nothing of the kind,” concluded Senator Bartlett.

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(1) Shark Control Records Hindcast Serious Decline in Dugong Numbers off the Urban Coast of Queensland, by Helene Marsh, Glenn De’ath, Neil Gribble and Baden Lane, and Dugong distribution and Abundance in the Southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Hervey Bay: Results of an Aerial Survey in October-December 1999.