Dugongs

Background

Dugongs are large generally grey coloured mammals which spend their entire lives in the sea. Fully grown, they can reach a total length of up to three (3) meters long and can reach weights of up to 400 kilograms. Dugongs swim by moving their broad whale-like tail in an up and down motion, and by use of their two flippers. They come to the surface to breathe through nostrils near the top of their snouts however unlike whales and dolphins, generally hold their breath for several minutes; shorter if swimming quickly.

Isaac Regional Council is active in management of marine areas for the protection of dugongs. Protection of dugong populations is important for the localised survival of the species and continuation of dugong habitation along the Isaac Region coastline.

While traveling along the coast or conducting recreational activities; be aware of dugongs.

  • Be sure to slow down if operating a recreational vessel within areas where dugong are known to inhabit
  • Don’t litter or dispose of rubbish other than within designated disposal facilities or bins
  • Do not throw plastic bags, fishing line and other rubbish into the sea or onto the beach.
  • Do not wilfully disturb or damage sea grass habitats
  • Do not approach closely or harass dugongs within coastal areas

Threats to Dugongs in coastal waters

Due to residing predominantly in warm-shallow coastal waters, dugong populations are closely effected by activities within the coastal zone. Activities conducted both on and off shore can contribute to degradation of habitat and feeding grounds for dugong populations; while changing climate conditions and increased development can contribute to environmental problems. Current threats to dugong populations within the Isaac Region include but are not limited to:

  • Accidental deaths due to fishing or bather (shark) nets along coastlines
  • Boat strike from recreational and commercial vessels
  • Degradation of sea grass meadows and natural habitat
  • Ingestion or entanglement in marine debris
  • Poor water quality due to coastal activities
  • Displacement of populations due to limited feeding grounds
  • Over fishing for culturally significant activities and practices
  • Increased temperatures due to climatic changes

Legislative protection

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
In Australia, dugongs are protected under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which lists them as marine and migratory species, and various State and Northern Territory legislation.
Dugongs are an integral part of the traditional culture of many coastal indigenous peoples throughout the world. Dugongs may be legally hunted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 for personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs.

What do I do if I find a Beached Dugong?

From time to time dugongs can be washed up on shore within the Isaac Region, management of stranded animals is key in protection of the species and notification of populations.
If you find a beached dugong while visiting a beach or coastal area within Isaac Regional Council contact the RSPCA Stranding Hotline immediately with details of the animal, location and status.

Contact Details

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service/RSPCA Stranding Hotline
Telephone: 1300-ANIMAL (1300 264 625)

For More Information

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection