Alarm as fourth dugong death reported in Gladstone

Published: July 25, 2011

With a fourth dugong found dead, washed up on a beach in Gladstone harbour, environmentalists are warning of an ecological disaster in this section of the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area.

Four dead dugong, three dolphins and more than 40 turtles have all been found since May washed up around the harbour.

Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth and president of the Lock the Gate Alliance, Drew Hutton, said he had witnessed first-hand much of the destruction which has already begun in Gladstone harbour as a result of construction of the LNG facilities.

"Gladstone is the end-point of the export coal seam gas/LNG industry in Queensland and liquefication plants, pipelines and port facilities are being built in this part of the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area," Mr Hutton said.

"The harbour is full of shipping and the loud, metallic noise of pile drivers and other construction work.

"Much of the harbour is a dugong sanctuary but the only dugong we are now finding are dead ones. The dredging I witnessed was ploughing straight through sea grass beds.

"The same has happened with the pod of threatened Indo-Pacific dolphins that used to be seen so often near the marina.

Mr Hutton said that what was currently happening at Gladstone revealed the hypocrisy behind both state and federal governments' assertions that the conditions they placed on these developments would protect important environmental values.

"How do you develop an environmental management plan that allows you to sensitively dredge your way through sea grass beds, removing 50 million cubic metres of spoil?" Mr Hutton asked.

"How do you sensitively remove kilometres of mangroves along Curtis Island for LNG plants?"

Mr Hutton echoed calls by the Worldwide Fund for Nature for a halt to dredging work on Gladstone harbour until an inquiry can determine the extent to which the recent floods and cyclones on the one hand and the dredging and mangrove removal on the other are responsible for animal starvation and deaths.

"Even if the work in this harbour is not directly killing marine animals, it is at least helping to create a situation where they are slowly being forced out of their traditional habitat to die of starvation," Mr Hutton said.

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