Darumbal traditional hunter Lester Adams with a traditional fishing spear and harpoon which he uses to hunt dugong and turtles.
Darumbal traditional hunter Lester Adams with a traditional fishing spear and harpoon which he uses to hunt dugong and turtles. Chris Ison

Hunter rejects dugong ban call

A DARUMBAL traditional hunter has hit back at conservationist Bob Irwin's call for indigenous Australians to stop hunting dugongs and sea turtles.

Mr Irwin and fellow Australian wildlife campaigner Ben Cropp are appearing in a series of television advertisements, seeking help from indigenous Australians to stop the rapid decline of dugong and sea turtle numbers.

They have called for a temporary moratorium on the hunting of these animals until an accurate count is done.

A large number of sea animals, particularly turtles and dugongs, have died, including off the Capricorn Coast and Gladstone.

However, Lester Adams, speaking on behalf of his family group and not as a community representative, said the moratorium call was unfair to traditional land owners.

Mr Adams said if authorities wanted to protect the animals they should clamp down on the mining and farming industries polluting the water ways, the impacts of professional fishermen and big developments.

He said hunting dugongs and turtles was one of few remaining traditional cultural activities Darumbal people could still do.

"We have been land managers for thousands of years and there was always plenty there.

"A lot of the problem is caused by development.

"Instead of picking on us, they should look at those who are impacting on our environment."

He likened a moratorium to "one of the final nails in the coffin for our culture" arguing it was the first step to stopping the activity.

Mr Adams said his family members would go dugong or turtle hunting three or four times a year and took no more than two dugong and three turtles annually.

Each time they went, the authorities were fully informed of the hunting trip.

While he doesn't agree with Mr Irwin's call for a moratorium, he said the conservationist was right to voice concerns about the black-market sale of dugong and turtles.

He said anyone caught doing this should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Late yesterday Mr Irwin responded saying dugongs and turtles would quickly become extinct if nothing changed.

He said a combination of development, traditional hunting and the natural disasters had decimated numbers.

"We have to protect these species," Mr Irwin said.

He said he had never called for a total ban, but a temporary moratorium.

"Once we count the numbers we can make an informed decision on what can and can't be done," Mr Irwin said.

He said the Capricorn Coast was hit hard in the floods, with much of the dugongs and turtles' food supply, sea grass, killed off.



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