Dugong swimming in the sea © Istockphoto.com / WWF


The northern Great Barrier Reef, is home to one of the world's biggest and most important dugong populations. But the 6,500 dugongs who live here risk being entangled and killed by huge gill nets. Please help us remove one of these deadly fishing nets and create one of the world's largest dugong havens on our northern Great Barrier Reef

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We're in negotiations to buy the last full-time commercial gill net on the northern Reef. This is an incredibly exciting and rare opportunity to immediately save thousands of the sea creatures that live there. Please chip in today to help make it a reality.

  • towards buying the fishing net and creating a 'Net-Free North'
  • towards buying the fishing net and creating a 'Net-Free North'
  • towards buying the fishing net and creating a 'Net-Free North'
  • towards buying the fishing net and creating a 'Net-Free North'
  • click here to enter an amount to the right-hand form.
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Gillnet illustration © Michigan Sea Grant

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 the 6,500 dugongs who live here risk being entangled and killed by the huge gill nets used by commercial gill net fishing. 

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.  

Taking this net out of the water will not only immediately help create a 385 km2 net-free haven for the large populations of dugongs, dolphins and sawfish in Princess Charlotte Bay, it will also be the first step in our plan to  create a ‘Net-Free North’ – a permanent 85,000 km2 refuge for Australia’s beautiful dugongs.

How can you help?

We are currently negotiating the price of the net with the seller. And once the price has been agreed on, we will only have a very short window of time to pay up. 

We're depending on generous supporters like you to make sure we have the funds ready – so we don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to save endangered marine life and an absolutely magnificent part of our country. 

Your donation today will help us to:

1. Buy the last full-time commercial gill net in Princess Charlotte Bay, so we can immediately turn this 385 km2 area into a net-free refuge for dugongs, and other amazing sea creatures
2. Advocate the Queensland Government to lock in official protections and create a ‘Net-Free North’ zone larger than Tasmania, stretching from Cape Flattery to the Torres Strait.

If for some reason, the sale of the net falls through, your donation will still go towards creating a Net-Free North.

Commercial gillnets infographic
Dugong swimming in the sea © Istockphoto.com / WWF

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 the 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. 

Save this haven for threatened species

The northern Reef is the 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.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) trapped in a drifting abandoned net, Mediterranean Sea. © naturepl.com  / Jordi Chias / WWF

Please note this is not the net we are looking to purchase


Why do I support WWF? Because they make a difference. Individually we have limited reach and power, but as a group we have much more - with WWF we can change things in the world because we are pulling together. Thank goodness for movements like WWF.

Michele Hannam Short

WWF Supporter since 1997

Dugong swimming in the sea © Istockphoto.com / WWF