We’re very privileged to still be able to see the dugong or ‘sea cow’ in its natural habitat, and to have one of the world’s largest dugong populations right here on our doorstep. Yet, it’s a sight that can’t be taken for granted. The Marine Park has seen a dramatic decline in dugong numbers over the last four decades – to the point where the Queensland government has listed it as ‘vulnerable to extinction’.
You can be part of the effort to help reverse this worrying trend, particularly when you are boating. Dugong are particularly vulnerable to being hit by speeding vessels and being disrupted by boating activities in their feeding and breeding sites.
Please take special care when you’re travelling through a dugong area – you’ll not only increase your visitors’ likelihood of spotting one of these magnificent creatures but you’ll also help increase the dugong’s chances of survival.
Responsible Reef Practices
- Be on the look out for dugong when you’re in areas that they are known to inhabit or feed (for example, Dugong Protection Areas and shallow seagrass beds).
- Slow down your vessel to a no-wake speed (less than 10 knots) in these areas.
- Use the voluntary speed limits and transit lanes in the Hinchinbrook area.
- Anchor away from seagrass beds where possible.
- Communicate with any other vessels in the vicinity of a dugong to avoid unduly disturbing it.
- Do not approach in a vessel closer than 50 metres of a dugong– if a dugong appears closer than 50 metres, move away from it very slowly.
- Do not approach in an aircraft within 300 metres altitude or within 300 metres horizontal radius of a dugong.
- Do not swim, dive or get in the water with a dugong.
- Do not feed, touch, grab, chase or harass a dugong.
- Avoid making loud noises and sudden movements when around dugong.
- Never separate a female dugong from her calf.
- Brief your passengers on the appropriate behaviour and legal requirements for the protection of dugong. Ensure you have appropriately trained or experienced staff to conduct the briefings.
- Ensure a staff member is monitoring the dugong's behaviour.
- Provide information about dugong in your onboard interpretation.
- Please report entangled, stranded or dead dugong.
Marine Parks Legal Requirements
- You must not 'take' dugong in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.
Note: ‘Take’ includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners.
- You must notify the Secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities within seven days of becoming aware that an activity you undertook without a permit resulted in an unintentional death, injury, trading, taking, keeping or moving of a species specified in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
If you're heading out on the water, download and use the free zoning app so you know where you can go and what you can do.
We're delighted to celebrate the 40 years of the managing the Great Barrier Reef.
Visit our Great Barrier Reef and discover its amazing animals, plants, and habitats.
Everyone has a role to play in protecting our Great Barrier Reef. Find out what you can do to help protect this great Australian icon.
If you see sick, dead or stranded marine animals please call RSPCA QLD 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
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