The Courier Mail

Courier Mail - 25 October 2006 - Marine Kill Soars

by Brian Williams



SIXTY-seven whales and dolphins died last year in Queensland, the highest number reported in the eight years statistics have been recorded.

Humans were responsible for more than half the deaths or strandings, most of which occurred between Hervey Bay and the Gold Coast.

Thirty per cent of deaths were in shark nets.

Just one death was attributed to natural causes.

Forty dugongs also died last year, although scientists warn it is not clear what proportion of deaths are actually reported.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife report by scientists Jennifer Greenland and Col Limpus said 70 reports of dead or injured cetaceans were received and 67 of those were confirmed.

Of these, 51 were dolphins (12 of which were rare) and 16 were whales.

The largest concentration of incidents was at the Gold Coast, with Moreton Bay second, then the Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay.

High population levels in those areas may have prompted more sightings of animals compared with other less populated areas to the north.

Fifteen animals were rescued from shark nets and strandings or escaped unaided.

"While the population of humpback whales migrating to Queensland waters for breeding continues to increase, parallel (stranding and death) increases can be expected," the report said.

These would occur through entanglements in shark nets, commercial fishing gear and collisions with boats.

For dugong, 85 per cent of deaths were due to human activities.

Seventeen of the dugong came from within dugong protection areas and 10 were found in state marine parks, with boat strikes and netting involved in most of the cases where causes could be determined.

Moreton Bay recorded a quarter of dugong fatalities, making it the most dangerous habitat for the species.

The report said commercial fishing and indigenous hunting were also areas of concern.

Only a limited number of indigenous communities reported on hunting, although several communities had entered into conservation agreements to restrict dugong and turtle takes.

Australia provides the home for most of the world's dugongs.

They live in northern waters between Shark Bay in Western Australia and Moreton Bay.

One of the reasons for nominating the Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage area in 1981 was its importance as a feeding ground for large populations of dugongs.

Dugongs, reported in massive schools when Europeans settled Australia, are now listed as vulnerable and numbers have declined along the urban coast of Queensland.



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