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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 30:37-44 (2016)  -  DOI:

Quick Fix GPS technology highlights risk to dugongs moving between protected areas

Daniel R. Zeh1,2,*, Michelle R. Heupel1,2, Mark Hamann2, Colin J. Limpus3, Helene Marsh1,2

1AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
2College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Aquatic Threatened Species Unit, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, 41 Boggo Rd., Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Incidental capture in fishing gear is the most serious threat to the survival of many species of marine mammals. Fisheries closures developed to protect marine mammals have tended to concentrate on areas of high marine mammal density. Movement corridors have generally been less protected because they are often unknown and difficult to detect. Seagrass meadows in Moreton and Hervey Bays in south-eastern Queensland support significant populations of dugongs Dugong dugon. Pedigree analysis based on genetic and ancillary biological data indicates that there is substantial movement of dugongs between these bays, which are separated by open surf coasts where dugongs are occasionally caught in inshore shark nets set for the protection of bathers. This bycatch suggests that the dugong movement corridor between Moreton and Hervey Bays is close to the coast, a hypothesis not confirmed by nearly 30 yr of dugong satellite tracking using platform transmitter terminal (PTT) technology. Twenty-nine dugongs were captured in seagrass habitats on the eastern banks of Moreton Bay in 2012-2014 and were fitted with Quick Fix GPS and acoustic transmitters. One animal was captured and tracked twice. Four dugongs were tracked moving from Moreton Bay to Hervey Bay covering distances of 278-338 km over 5-9 d; 1 dugong made the return journey. Three of the 4 animals travelled along and very close to the coast; the exact track of the fourth animal is uncertain. These results suggest that dugongs would benefit from netting closures that extend beyond seagrass meadows.

KEY WORDS: Dugong · Fishery closures · Acoustic · Satellite · Telemetry · Quick Fix GPS

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Cite this article as: Zeh DR, Heupel MR, Hamann M, Limpus CJ, Marsh H (2016) Quick Fix GPS technology highlights risk to dugongs moving between protected areas. Endang Species Res 30:37-44.

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