The dugong was killed near Hervey Bay.
The dugong was killed near Hervey Bay.

Men fined $17k over killing of turtles, dugong in Hervey Bay

TWO men were fined this week after illegally catching and killing two green turtles and a dugong near Hervey Bay in 2016.

Larry Matthew, 50 and Bongie Bowie, 22, both of Innisfail, pleaded guilty in the Innisfail Magistrates Court on Monday to one charge each of taking a protected animal from the Great Sandy Marine Park on October 7, 2016.

The pair were hunting with three other men in the Great Sandy Strait, Fraser Coast, when they were approached by officers from the Department of Environment and Science.

DES representative Peter Snedden told the court that officers found a dugong and two adult green turtles, all of which had been killed and cut up.

"Rangers spoke to a gentleman on the boat, who is not one of the defendants today, who informed the rangers that they were doing an official hunt and that they had permission from local elders to conduct that hunt," he said.

"The problem is that the local Butchulla people that have the traditional hunting rights to that area put in place a moratorium on any hunting four or five years ago.

"When they see people hunting, that raises a red flag that those people are hunting illegally."

Butchulla elder Frances Gala said population concerns for the species meant the Fraser Coast indigenous people did not support the hunting of dugong or green turtles in the region.

"There's not that many of them left," she said.

"We don't touch them."

She said she was concerned that people had been hunting the animals and she hoped the hefty fines would deter anyone from taking the animals.

"We don't bother them. We don't like it," she said.

Ms Gala said she was confident no Butchulla elder would give permission for the animals to be hunted.

The men's solicitor, Chris Blishen, said his clients were "led down the garden path" and believed that they had permission to hunt there.

"They had permission to hunt in another area but not having a GPS, they found themselves in an area where they didn't have permission to hunt," he said.

Mr Blishen said the person who gave permission was from the Torres Strait and was not allowed to give permission to the men to hunt in that particular area.

Both men were fined $7798.50 each for the conservation value of the animals.

Bowie was also fined an additional $500 and Matthew was fined an additional $1000.

No convictions were recorded.

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