The Port of Gladstone is home to the mysterious, but gentle, sea cow. Dugongs (Dugong dugon) are the only herbivorous mammal that is restricted to marine habitats and are normally found in tropical and subtropical coastal and island waters. In Australia, dugongs are protected as a migratory species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Further protection in Queensland includes listing dugongs as a vulnerable species under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Assessment of dugong status in 2011 concluded that the population along the urban coast of Queensland met the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s criteria for critically endangered, identifying the need to establish dugong protection areas and initiate research on habitat usage and population trends.
Their habitats generally correspond with the distribution of shallow water seagrasses, hence they largely frequent coastal waters with major concentrations in the protection of wide shallow bays or mangrove channels or in the lee of inshore islands. Dugongs are not wilderness animals; dugong feeding trails have been found in the seagrass bed adjacent to the RG Tanna Coal Terminal coal loader in the Port of Gladstone.
The Gladstone area supports extensive seagrass meadows that are of regional significance as they are the only known major areas of seagrass between Hervey Bay and Shoalwater Bay. These seagrass meadows represent an important connecting habitat between dugong populations in central and south-east Queensland as the dugong habitat of the Rodd’s Bay/Gladstone area stands halfway between Shoalwater Bay and Hervey Bay.
GPC’s Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program (ERMP) monitors the dugongs along the Capricorn Curtis coast to gain a better understanding of their population characteristics and habitat usage, through tagging and aerial surveying of their feeding trails.
Click on the links below for more information on dugongs and our environmental initiatives.