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- between Mabuiag and the coast of New Guinea - and he also described the
earlier practice of constructing a bamboo platform ( nēět ) on the reef from which
dugongs were speared. Other documentary evidence of the Indigenous hunting
of dugongs was provided by Banfield (1908), who acknowledged the apparent
reduction of dugong numbers as a result of harvesting. In addition to the method
of harpooning described by Haddon, Banfield (1908) referred to the practice of
constructing and setting nets for dugongs.
A similar, early account of Indigenous hunting of dugongs, by Wandandian
(Richard Dyatt) (1912), described the capture of a dugong cow in Trinity
Bay, near Cairns, and the butchering of the animal to produce 528 lb of meat.
Wandandian (1912) also referred to the spearing of seven dugongs in 90 minutes
by one dugong hunter in Trinity Bay. Sunter (1936) provided an account of the
hunting of a dugong by Indigenous people several years previously at Bowen
Straits; he also acknowledged the apparent increasing scarcity of the animal in
coastal Queensland waters (Sunter, 1937). The hunt took place using a canoe
that was equipped with a spear and harpoon; the harpoon was thrust into its body
and the boat was towed by the captive dugong. Eventually, exhausted, the dugong
rose to the surface and was pulled into the canoe; the dugong was later butchered
on the shore. Another method of Indigenous dugong hunting was described by
Smart (1951, pp34-5), who described the use of a raft ( walpa ) of mangrove cedar
by dugong hunters. Smart (1951) described the way in which hunters used the
sound of the dugong exhaling to locate the animals; the dugongs were then speared
when the raft was within striking range. In addition to the use of rafts, Smart
(1951) described the method of fishing for dugongs using a system of wooden
barriers and bark nets that were constructed across the entrances of small rivers.
The dugongs were then driven into the nets using rafts. Once caught, the animals
were drowned by holding them beneath the water. Smart (1951) also described
an alternative method of dugong hunting and butchering used at Mornington
Island, where the dugongs were harpooned from a canoe, towed in the water
and drowned using a rope. Further details of Indigenous methods of capturing
and butchering dugongs were provided by the anthropologist, Donald Fergusson
Thomson (1956, pp33-6; 1985, pp14-15, 156-62), who referred to dugong
hunting at several locations, including Princess Charlotte Bay, the Stewart River,
Temple Bay, Cape Direction (Lockhart River) and Cape Sidmouth.
Whilst the Indigenous hunting of dugongs has exploited animals in Torres
Strait and the Great Barrier Reef, that impact occurred alongside multiple other
influences on dugongs, including the substantial harvests made by commercial
dugong fishers prior to 1970. In addition, dugongs have been caught in shark
nets set in Queensland for bather protection, which has resulted in the deaths
of 654 dugongs in Queensland since 1962, and as a result of boat strikes (Marsh
et al., 2002). Due to those other, anthropogenic factors, combined with natural
environmental changes, dugong populations are now considerably influenced
by harvesting by Indigenous hunters. Since the decline of commercial dugong
fishing, the impact of Indigenous hunting now represents one of the most critical
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