Friday, October 07, 2005

Autopsy to find cause death of mutilated dolphin

A MUTILATED dolphin carcass found washed up on Saunders Beach on Wednesday night will undergo an autopsy to determine what caused its grisly death.Alarmed residents contacted the Environmental Protection Agency pollution hotline after making the grim discovery.

Staff from the EPA, Queensland Parks and Wildlife and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries examined the site and took samples yesterday morning.

An EPA spokesperson said a dead adult female Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and some other dead fish were found washed up on the beach.

The dolphin carcass was taken to James Cook University for examination.

Outraged Saunders Beach residents yesterday came forward, fed up with the blatant disregard they said commercial fishers were showing for the environment.

They said Wednesday's discovery was not an isolated incident, but part of an escalating problem.
Helen Ellery said she had found fish heads and entrails on the beach since a commercial fishing trawler set up off Saunders Beach a month ago.

But she said seeing the mutilated dolphin was the most distressing incident by far.

"It had net marks all over it, big gashes and cuts on its head, blood on its tail and fin, and it was slashed up underneath. It had basically been mutilated," Ms Ellery said.

She also counted eight small hammerhead sharks washed up on the beach that afternoon.
"And a couple of days before that, a massive cod, about five feet long, was washed up dead. The carcass was intact - it was huge," she said.

"You can't sit out the front and eat your breakfast, it just stinks of dead fish."

But more concerning to Ms Ellery, who moved to Saunders Beach last December to enjoy the unspoiled natural landscape, is the effect of commercial fishers on the environment.

"I understand people need to fish for a living, and they've had the Government put restrictions on their activities, but they still need to take responsibility for their actions," she said.
"Dolphins, cod and dugongs are protected species and this is a serious offence.
"We will keep pushing until something is done."

Long-term Saunders Beach resident Richard Russell said for several several months each year, the tropical beachside oasis was overrun with a mess of stinking fish guts and carcasses.
"I remember the drama last year with all the dead critters washing up on the beach," Mr Russell said.

"Last year I rang (the Department of) Fisheries to complain about a boat anchored about 30m offshore throwing guts and carcasses over the side and they said there's nothing they could do about it.

"We had a couple of American tourists on the beach yesterday and they were absolutely horrified."
Queensland Seafood Industry Association Townsville representative Andrew Tobin said waters off Saunders Beach had been a popular haunt for commercial fishers for some 15 years.

"Every September to October we get a run of grey mackerel through. There is a high level of fishing over those months," Mr Tobin said.

"Incidents with dolphins and dugongs are very rare, though they happen at times.
"It's a very emotive issue that holds the industry in bad light.

"It's an unfortunate side of fishing that's occurring up there."

Mr Tobin said it was accepted practice for commercial fishers to discard heads and entrails into the water, using the logic they were better back in the system than on land.

He believes the concentrated area, combined with tides and winds had led to the excessive quantity of entrails and remains washing up on the beach.

"QSIA does not support the action of any fishers who have injured an animal and failed to report the incident to the EPA," Mr Tobin said.


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