Recreational and commercial fishers operating in the Burdekin area have been urged to take extra care to avoid dugongs.
A local commercial fisher has notified the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority after sighting up to a dozen dugongs, along with adult-sized green turtles, foraging on seagrasses off the mouth of Groper Creek.
Operations support manager Mark Read said it was unusual to see dugongs feeding in the area at this time of year.
“The animals are actively feeding there because of the availability of seagrass, which is their primary food source,” Dr Read said.
“In a typical wet season, flood water coming down the Burdekin River increases water turbidity and limits the amount of light available for seagrass growth. Without that light, the seagrass tends to die off.
“The presence of dugongs and green turtles is a reflection of the dry summer we’ve had so far.”
Dr Read said it was encouraging that commercial fishers had taken the initiative by advising Marine Park managers and others out on the water about the presence of protected marine life in specific locations.
“Giving the call out to fishers and boaties helps reduce the risk to these species,” he said.
“The best approach is to actively look out for dugongs and turtles, and to take extra care when working and travelling in the area.
“The slogan ‘go slow for those below’ applies in this situation.
“Commercial fishers might also consider targeting other areas open to fishing or consider carefully where and how they work their gear.”
Dugongs are listed as a protected species in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983.