Media Release Fisheries

Queensland’s rare snubfin dolphins and dugongs drown in Great Barrier Reef fishing nets

November 18, 2017

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today expressed deep concern over the deaths of two snubfin dolphins drowned in legally set gillnets in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Snubfin dolphins are incredibly rare, exist only in Australia, and are listed as vulnerable to extinction.

With four dugongs also recently killed, conservationists are now call for netting bans in high value dugong, dolphin and turtle habitats.

Tooni Mahto, AMCS Senior Marine Campaigner said, “Queenslanders will be shocked to learn that gillnetting in the Great Barrier Reef is drowning our rare snubfin dolphins and dugongs.

“With the Queensland election just a week away, this is a stark reminder of the need for all parties to step up protection for our threatened marine life.

“These recent dolphin and dugong drownings are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that gillnet fisheries have been killing Queensland’s dolphins, dugongs and turtles for decades.

“Gillnets are invisible walls of death for some of Queensland’s precious marine wildlife. We should be moving away from these deadly fishing methods towards more sustainable fishing, particularly within the Reef’s World Heritage waters.

AMCS is calling on all Queensland parties to commit to ending gillnetting in high conservation value areas.

“As a priority, gillnets should be removed from the marine park waters north of Cooktown. This would protect Queensland’s snubfin dolphins, dugongs and turtles, as well as enhance the World Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.”


  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has confirmed two snubfin dolphins were drowned in legally set gillnets in October. Four dugongs have also recently died, with one death confirmed as drowning in a gillnet.
  • The two snubfin dolphin deaths and confirmed dugong death were reported appropriately by the commercial fishers operating the gillnets.
  • Snubfin dolphins were identified as a new species in 2005.
  • Snubfin dolphins are Australia’s only endemic dolphins and live in small isolated groups along Australia’s northern coastline, from the Kimberley to Gladstone. They live in riverine, estuarine coastal waters.
  • Snubfin dolphins are listed as vulnerable to extinction in Queensland waters
  • One of the main threats to snubfin dolphins is ‘incidental capture from netting, especially gill nets and ghost nets’.
  • Sustainable fisheries management is listed as the first recovery action for snubfin dolphins by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. To access the plan visit

For more information and comment contact:
Ingrid Neilson, AMCS Communications Manager 0421 972 731 or
Gemma Freeman, AMCS Media and Communications Officer 0412 505 405.