WHILE the Department of Environment and Resource Management continues investigations into the death of two dugongs last week, one pertinent question lingers: What is happening in Gladstone harbour?
The increasing number of marine deaths in the Gladstone region has reached a point where it’s difficult to hold fishing nets and boating accidents solely responsible, and the call for accountability grows ever louder from our concerned community.
“Unless we’ve done the autopsy we should not comment on the source of the problem, but we must investigate why these things happen,” troubled citizen Jan Arens said.
“Because we have a government that is so keen to develop this LNG industry at such a breakneck pace we’re losing sight of the fact that we share the harbour with these animals and they’re protected by international law.
If we are going to compromise dugong habitats within listed dugong protection areas, and the government says we are going to enforce that with monitoring, that needs to be in place before we start messing around with their habitat.”
With the Western Basin dredging project currently in its early stages, Gladstone Ports Corporation said it was committed to the preservation of the harbour’s protected species.
“We have been monitoring the harbour for many years, which has included monitoring seagrass and water quality,” a spokesman said.
“Part of the litigation for the dredging project is that there is $17 million allocated for environmental conservation.
“The Western Basin dredging project is still in its early stages and we are currently working on those specific guidelines and considering programs.”
Despite these allocations, the community at large remains dissatisfied with the level of precaution being taken to ensure marine life is properly catered for, and have called for government intervention.
“We as a nation have declared this as a protection area for these animals and subsequently have these dredging activities on, you could question whether it’s absolutely necessary or if there is a better way,” Mr Arens said.
“The culpability lies squarely with those who are putting pressure on their habitat.”
Turtle Island caretaker Clive Last, who discovered a dead dolphin in May, echoed Mr Arens’ call for stricter industry regulations.
“Measures should have been put in place before this was allowed to go ahead, the same holds true for the accommodation situation.”
State Environment Minister Kate Jones contacted The Observer yesterday afternoon to announce the creation of a scientific panel to formally investigate.
Report strandings and deaths to the department on 1300 130 372.