Get off the grass, dugongs need it
JET-SKI riders and jet boat drivers please “go slow for those below”.
That's the message from Seagrass Watchdog project officer Gordon Cottle, who yesterday said a lot of commercial and recreational fishing and sporting activities were going on that shouldn't be.
Mr Cottle's plea comes in the wake of Hervey Bay commercial fisherman Geoff Melksham last week calling for his fellow fishers not to use jet boats across seagrass beds.
“The Great Sandy Strait seagrass beds are suffering from people ignoring the laws - and ignoring the juvenile fish, turtles, crabs and dugong that are being raised and feed on the seagrass,” Mr Cottle said.
“I'm monitoring 18 sites in the Strait and am regularly finding evidence of illegal activity across the beds and destruction of the seagrass.”
Mr Cottle, who works under the auspices of the Burnett Mary Regional Group, said the problem was the law was a “paper tiger” when it came to prosecuting the offenders.
“We've been calling for enforcement for a very long time but government departments have told us they're too bogged down in paperwork to be out there and do anything towards catching the offenders.
“At Pelican Bay on the western side of Inskip Point I've seen evidence of major drag netting.
“At Poona a few weeks ago a huge amount of grass had been cut up and chewed up in the water.
“At Tinnanbar I saw a huge gouge out of the middle of a seagrass bed - it was 100 metres long and had been caused by a boat or a jet ski.”
Mr Cottle said dugongs' sole diet was the root system of the seagrass. “They eat an average of 25kg of roots a day so we need to protect their food source.”
A huge seagrass bed, he said, was in Browns Gutter on the western side of the Strait and near Snow Point, just north of Inskip.