- The Hon Andrew Fraser MP, Queensland Treasurer and Minister for State Development and Trade
In January 2011, massive floods in Queensland spewed a plume of silt over the seagrass beds off the coast of Central Queensland, Australia, where the rare and endangered marine mammals, dugongs, feed and raise their young.
Now the Gladstone Ports Corporation, with the approval of the Queensland Government, is dredging and dumping 55 million tonnes of spoil on seagrass beds as part of a port expansion project. The Queensland's own Environment Minister has admitted the floods will badly affect habitat and could lead to "malnutrition and death" for dugongs and marine turtles. The World Wildlife Fund says the dumping on top of the floods is "a death of a thousand cuts" for dugongs.
Dugongs are classified as "vulnerable to extinction" by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and Australian tropical waters are one of their last strongholds.
The Government claims there are conditions on the project. But those conditions don't take into account the effect of the floods. The Treasurer as Shareholder MInister for the Corporation should make sure the dumping is postponed until a proper study into the effects of the floods has been carried out and alternatives to dumping offshore have been properly investigated.
In your role as Shareholder Minister of the Gladstone Ports Corporation, I ask you to direct the Board of the Corporation to act now to save endangered dugongs in the Queensland waters, by postponing work on the dredging project in the Port of Gladstone.
The Western Basin and Disposal Dredging Project and the Fisherman’s Landing Reclamation Project involve the construction of a reclamation site and channels over existing seagrass habitat. The proponent’s own Environmental Impact Statement Supplementary Information Document acknowledges that marine species such as dugong, green turtle and Indo Pacific humpback dolphins will be impacted and displaced by the project and that their marine environment will be "markedly disturbed".
According to the World Wildlife Fund, sediment from recent Queensland floods will already result in a massive dieback with disastrous consequences for dugongs. Dugongs will suffer starvation, sickness and a decline in population numbers as their ability to reproduce is impaired.
Queensland’s own Environment Minister has acknowledged this disaster “could cause malnutrition and death” for dugongs and marine turtles.
On top of this devastation, the Corporation plans to start dredging and dumping directly where dugongs feed. 55 million cubic tones of spoil will be dumped on these areas. No serious consideration has been given to finding another location. Conditions placed on the development have not taken into account the effect of the floods.
Dugongs only reproduce single calves at three to seven year intervals. Dugongs do not reach adulthood until between 9 and 17 years of age. Dugongs are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 and are already subject to a range of human threats in Australia. The significance of the Great Barrier Reef Region for dugongs was one of the reasons that the area was given a World Heritage listing. The dugong is listed as “Vulnerable to Extinction” internationally and the main location which has a substantial population is the Queensland coast, as they have been reduced to very low numbers elsewhere.
2011 is the Pacific Year of the Dugong. Please take steps now to ensure that Queensland does not join the shameful list of Governments who have allowed these remarkable marine mammals to creep ever closer to extinction. Postpone all dredging and reclamation work until a proper study has been carried out into the effect of the floods and alternatives to destruction of the seagrass beds have been properly explored.
The Stop the destruction of Dugong habitats at Gladstone petition to The Hon Andrew Fraser MP, Queensland Treasurer and Minister for State Development and Trade was written by Don't Dump on Dugongs and is in the category Animal Welfare at GoPetition.