On 21 October 2017 two snubfin dolphins were caught and drowned in a commercial net fishing operation.
The fisher who caught the dolphins followed all required fishing rules and protocols, including attendance of the net and reporting of the incident.
The fisher additionally reported the incident immediately to all relevant management authorities and facilitated analyses of the dead animals.
Marine Parks officers recovered the dead dolphins from the fisher, and took them to a university so they could be used for research, including examination of possible contributing factors to their incidental entanglement and death.
There was no further investigation of this matter as the circumstances of the incident were known.
In September and October the deaths of four dugong were confirmed in Bowling Green Bay near Townsville.
One dugong was entangled and drowned in a commercial fishing net. The fisher who caught the dugong followed all required fishing rules and protocols for reporting.
A second dead dugong was found floating in close proximity to commercial netting operations about a week later.
Two further dugong carcasses were found in Bowling Green Bay with the cause of death unable to be determined due to decomposition.
There are no ongoing investigations of these deaths.
Commercial net fishing is a long-standing and important fishing use of the multiple-use Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The activity generates important economic activity and provides a high quality food source for many coastal Queensland communities.
That being said, it must be conducted in a demonstrable ecologically sustainable manner.
Some of these unfortunate marine mammal deaths relating to net fishing reinforce the importance of mitigating risks and ensuring ecologically sustainable fishery management arrangements are in place adjacent to and throughout the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Queensland Marine Park legislation complements fisheries management arrangements by restricting the use of nets in the Marine Parks.
The use of large-mesh commercial fishing nets is prohibited in 38 per cent of the Marine Park (130,435 square kilometres) by the Great Barrier Reef Zoning Plan.
Specific Dugong Protection Areas which prohibit and restrict commercial net fishing in several areas along the Great Barrier Reef coast have been in place for 20 years.
These incidents also reinforce the need for independent validation and monitoring (including vessel monitoring systems and use of new technologies) to provide accurate data on fishing activities and species that are caught unintentionally.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Fisheries Queensland are committed to working cooperatively with the Queensland commercial fishing industry to maintain and improve measures to reduce the impacts of net fishing on these animals.
The information provided by commercial fishers about their interaction with these animals is invaluable in enabling this collaborative work.
By government agencies, the fishing industry, environmental organsiations and the wider community being aware of animal mortalities, we are better positioned to best manage all threats to these species, including those unrelated to fishing.