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Unsustainable harvest of dugongs in Torres Strait and Cape York (Australia) waters: two case studies using population viability analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2004

Robert Heinsohn
Affiliation:
Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, Canberra A.C.T. 0200 Australia
Robert C. Lacy
Affiliation:
Department of Conservation Biology, Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Center, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield, IL 60513, USA
David B. Lindenmayer
Affiliation:
Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, Canberra A.C.T. 0200 Australia
Helene Marsh
Affiliation:
School of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University, Douglas, Townsville, 4811and CRC Torres Strait, P.O.Box 772, Townsville 4801, Australia
Donna Kwan
Affiliation:
School of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University, Douglas, Townsville, 4811and CRC Torres Strait, P.O.Box 772, Townsville 4801, Australia
Ivan R. Lawler
Affiliation:
School of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University, Douglas, Townsville, 4811and CRC Torres Strait, P.O.Box 772, Townsville 4801, Australia
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Abstract

A significant proportion of the world's remaining dugongs (Dugong dugon) occur off northern Australia where they face various anthropogenic impacts. Here, we investigate the viability of two dugong meta-populations under varying regimes of indigenous hunting. We construct population viability analyses (PVAs) using the computer package VORTEX and published estimates of population sizes and hunting rates. In Torres Strait between Cape York and New Guinea, our models predict severe and imminent reductions in dugong numbers. Our ‘optimistic’ and ‘pessimistic’ models suggest median times for quasi-extinction of 123 and 42 years, respectively. Extinction probabilities are also high for eastern Cape York Peninsula. We demonstrate the inadequacy of reserves when harvest rates in neighbouring areas are high, identify the maximum harvest rates for meta-population stability and emphasise the urgent need for indigenous community involvement in management to establish sustainable rates of dugong harvest in these regions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 The Zoological Society of London

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