Report – EV3203 – Ministrial Briefing I

To: Minister for the Environment

From: Stefan Martensson, Conservationist / Political Advisor.

Re: A commitment for funding Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (QEPA) to institute management actions to improve conservation prospects of one species of marine wildlife have been decided.

Issues: Before a species can be considered for selection, weighting of ecological and evolutionary values, taxonomic singularity and use and non-use values has to be considered. As well as the threatening processes, the capacity to control such processes, the need for management and lastly the potential for recovery.

The weighting is done by allocating 100 points to the components of the ‘Consequences of extinction criterion’. One or more weightings can be zero. Same procedure for the ‘Recovery potential criterion’. Each species was then separately scored against each of the criteria; Consequences of Extinction and Recover Potential.

Name of species Weighted Score: Consequences of Extinction Weighted Score:

Recovery Potential Criterion

Loggerhead Turtle

71%

63%

Humpback Whale

76%

55%

Pacific Humpback Dolphin

83%

70%

Dugong

70%

70%

Roseate Tern

50%

35%

By just revising the results above one will find that that the Pacific Humpback Dolphin has the worst results. However, scientists today do not know sufficient about the Pacific Humpback Dolphin. To make a wise decision about its management it would not be economically viable to conserve this species due to the money required for biological research about the species before setting up a management plan.

Second species that stands out is the Humpback Whale. Since the commercial whaling operations stopped in 1965 the Humpback Whale are increasing in numbers with about 12% per annum in Queensland, and about 6 to 12% per annum world wide. Humpback whales are doing well as long as the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) is keep in place.

The Dugong are threatened in the southern Great Barrier Reef and in 1997 management actions like; Establishment of sanctuaries, elimination and restriction of gillnetting and traditional hunting was banned in the area. The outcome of these actions are unknown. However, after an ‘Extinction Probability test’ it was found that the Loggerhead Turtle was in a greater need for management than the dugong also, the Loggerhead Turtle is listed as ‘Endangered’ on schedule 1 of the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 and by IUCN. The Dugong is ‘only’ listed as vulnerable. The loggerhead turtle is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

The loggerhead turtle was used as one of the reasons in the nomination of the World Heritage listing of the GBR region.

The GBR populations of loggerhead turtle have regional, national and international significance. The Australian nesting populations are genetically distinct from the rest of the world. Within the Australian population the eastern breeding population is the only significant population for the species in the entire South Pacific Ocean.

Between the mid 1970s and 1990 the loggerhead turtle in Queensland declined with 50-80%. Loggerheads are very slow breeders, their maximum population increase per annum is less than 7.5% and they have a generation time of about 30-50years.

However, the species engenders strong social and aesthetic existence value and support ecotourism operations. The loggerhead turtle is also important to conservation groups.

The most important threatening processes are ingestion of plastic bags and other debris, bycatch (from trawling, shark and gill nets), fox predation of eggs, habitat loss, boatstrikes and pollution. The bycatch issues have been addressed through the implementation of “Turtle Excluder” and “Bycatch reduction” devices in trawl nets and through seasonal closures.

Management will be difficult due to the animal is a highly migratory species, crossing Commonwealth, State, the Northern Territory and International boundaries. However, 90% of the nesting habitat in Queensland is protected.

Management Considerations: Management of such a highly migratory species is a great challenge. This involves agreements with indigenous populations of many countries around the Torres Strait i.e. Australia, PNG, Timor, Sulawesi, Borneo, Java, Malaysia and other pacific islands that have indigenous hunting of turtles.

A great threat to turtles are shark- and gillnets. A majority of the above species will also be positively affected by removal of shark- and gillnets. The ecological gain from removal of such nets would be great. Mortality of dugongs, pacific humpback dolphin (as well as other dolphins species) and loggerhead turtles together with other turtle species would decline significantly. Social costs will play a role in this decision.

Recommendations: That the chairman:

  1. Grant the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency for the protection of the Endangered Loggerhead Turtle.
  2. Introduce new legislation in conjunction with other pacific countries to stop the turtle hunt.
  3. With the assistance of GBRMPA’s and QEPA’s Aboriginal Liaison officers, work in conjunction with the local Indigenous Communities both in Australia and neighbouring countries to:
  1. Explain the reason for the new legislation
  2. Develop a plan for alternative options and/or compensation for this loss.

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