Dugong swimming in the sea © / WWF

Dugong swimming in the sea © / WWF

Net-free North

Help us create a permanent 85,000km2 refuge for Australia’s beautiful dugongs
Help us create a permanent 85,000km2 refuge for Australia’s beautiful dugongs

We need your help to ban commercial gill-net fishing on the northern Great Barrier Reef for good.


Dugongs can easily drown in gill nets along with other threatened species such as snubfish dolphins, marine turtles, sawfish, hammerhead sharks and the critically endangered Bizant River shark.


We have successfully removed the last full-time commercial gill net from Far North Queensland, but we still need your help to continue our work to advocate the Queensland Government to create a 'Net Free North.'


The time is now, as current laws don't stop any of the 240 commercial gill nets on the east coast from relocating to this area. 


Together, we have the power to create the largest net-free area on the Great Barrier Reef of 85,000 square kilometers - that's the size of Tasmania! 



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Dugong accidentally caught in gill net, near Mackay, Queensland, April 2018. The dugong was spotted and luckily steered back into deeper water and was able to swim away, unharmed.

You know where deadly commercial gill nets don’t belong? On our northern Great Barrier Reef.

The northern Great Barrier Reef is home to one of the world’s biggest populations of dugongs and a refuge for vulnerable sharks, dolphins, turtles and sawfish.

It’s an extraordinary ecosystem – but endangered species who live here risk being entangled and killed by gill nets.

The damage these massive gill nets can do is very worrying. They hang like curtains in the sea, where they can entangle dugongs and other air breathing animals – drowning them in minutes.

Fortunately, with the support of WWF supporters, we were able to purchase the last full-time commercial gill net on the northern Great Barrier Reef. However, we now need your help to support our plan to create a ‘Net-Free North’ – a permanent 85,000km2 refuge for Australia’s beautiful dugongs.


Gillnets infographic

How can you help?

We're depending on generous supporters like you to help us with the next stages of creating a 'Net Free North' zone. This area will be larger than Tasmania, stretching from Cape Flattery to the Torres Strait.   


Your donation today could help us to:

1. Save endangered marine life
2. Advocate the Queensland Government to lock in official protections and create a ‘Net-Free North’ zone.

Gillnet illustration © Michigan Sea Grant

The sea's gentle giants need your support

Dugongs are shy mammals, with an appetite for seagrass! They are sometimes referred to as the ‘sea cow’ because of the copious amounts they eat.

Thanks to this healthy appetite, dugongs help to maintain our coastal marine ecosystems. Seagrass is a critical component of our oceans, just like coral reefs. When seagrasses are eaten it encourages the regeneration of more seagrass, which provides critical habitat and feeding areas for other important marine species like turtles, sawfish and dolphins.

Dugongs are cousins of the manatee. They share a similar plump appearance but have a dolphin fluke-like tail instead of paddle-shaped. And unlike manatees, which live in freshwater, the dugong is strictly a marine mammal found in shallow coastal waters like the Great Barrier Reef. Australia is an important refuge for dugongs, and is home to the largest, and globally most important population.

Female dugongs give birth to one calf at three to seven year intervals, with the baby dugong staying with its mum for up to two years. These low breeding rates, long-term care of their calves and dependence on seagrass, make dugongs vulnerable to human threats.

Loggerhead turtle trapped in a drifting abandoned net, Mediterranean Sea ©  / Jordi Chias / WWF


(please note: this is not the net we are looking to purchase)
Sawfish (Pristidae) underwater with close up detail of mouth and saw © Shutterstock / Andrea Izzotti / WWF

Save this haven for threatened species

The northern Reef is a last refuge for turtles, sharks, dolphins, sawfish and many other amazing, threatened species whose numbers are dwindling in other parts of Australia.

But without urgent action, these species are at risk from commercial gill net fishing.


Please join WWF-Australia to conserve the northern Reef’s extraordinary marine ecosystem – while we still can.

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If you have any questions about your donation, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly Supporter Services team either by email: or call 1800 032 551

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Dugong swimming in the sea  © / WWF
Thank you for helping us reach our goal towards a Net-Free North