NO TAKE: MPs are calling for tougher rules around traditional hunting of dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef. The Mackay region has a number of dugong habitats aimed at protecting the mammals.
NO TAKE: MPs are calling for tougher rules around traditional hunting of dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef. The Mackay region has a number of dugong habitats aimed at protecting the mammals. Contributed

Indigenous hunters using Great Barrier Reef as 'supermarket'

INDIGENOUS hunters are using the Great Barrier Reef as a "supermarket" for dugong and turtle meat in an uncurbed practice putting the species in danger, the federal government has been told.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg is being lobbied by MPs, including from the Palaszczuk Government, to put tougher rules around traditional hunting.

It comes as the Bob Irwin Wildlife Foundation ramps up its push to change Native Title laws to totally ban all hunting of vulnerable and endangered species and will invite the senate crossbench north in an attempt to recruit them to the cause.

Spokesman Colin Riddell said turtles and dugongs fetched $75 and $150 a kilogram respectively.

"People go to Green Island and see people spearing and cutting up turtles right in front of them in a marine park," he said.

"They're using marine parks as a supermarket."

Governments admit they have no idea how many dugongs and turtles are being killed, although a federal report in 2000 estimated it was up to 1600 dugongs and 20,000 turtles a year.

Traditional owners have hunting rights on their own country under the Native Title Act 1993 that permits the taking of turtles and dugongs for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. But Mr Frydenberg is being told the laws are being ignored by some who aren't supposed to be hunting or who are doing it to make money.

The Mackay region has a number of dugong habitats, part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, including at Clairview, Cape Palmerston and Armstrong Beach.

The LNP's Cairns-based Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch - who said he has had "good support" from Mr Frydenberg - said there was "serious issues" along the eastern coast with some families selling to people who just "want to taste a bit of dugong or turtle meat".

"The young ones are using Facebook and boasting about the killing of these animals, which is against the spirit of this," he said.

He wants prohibitions on freezing and sending the meat, arguing animals should be consumed where they are taken.

Mr Frydenberg said it was a sensitive issue and indigenous communities did legitimately hunt for cultural and ceremonial reasons.

"There is a legitimate community concern with what people perceive as a cruel practice that is leading to unnecessary conflict between visitors to the reef and local indigenous communities," he said.

"A number of indigenous communities like the Gunggandji traditional owners near Cairns have taken positive steps forward to introduce no-take areas around certain parts of the reef, like Michaelmas Cay."

He said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was working with other indigenous communities on voluntary no-take zones.

JESSICA MARSZALEK



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