Traditional hunters defend Fraser Island from poachers
INDIGENOUS hunters have racked up thousands of dollars in penalties after being caught butchering a dugong and two turtles near Fraser Island in waters they have no traditional claim to.
The four were dobbed in by local Butchulla men furious their traditional hunting grounds were being pillaged by out-of-towners from Brisbane and as far away as Torres Strait.
Butchulla Mens Business Association president Glen Miller said his group had put a moratorium on hunting in the waters around Fraser Island and Great Sandy Strait in a bid to catch poachers who tried to confuse government authorities by claiming they were indigenous hunters with permission to take protected animals.
Four men have been charged with poaching after parks and wildlife officers found two butchered turtles and one butchered dugong in their tinny in the Great Sandy Strait in October 2016.
In a drawn-out 18 month prosecution, two of the men were fined and ordered to pay $7700 to the state government for the "conservation value" of the poached animals.
A third has indicated he'll plead guilty when he fronts Beenleigh Magistrates Court this week while a fourth has to front Maryborough Court on April 11 or will be dealt with in his absence.
Innisfail Magistrates Court, where the first two defendants, Bongie Bowie and Larry Matthew, pleaded guilty on March 12, was told the animals were taken for traditional ceremonies but the magistrate questioned why they were found butchered and whether they were destined to be sold.
"They were killed inhumanely and cut up in pieces on the boat and there was a large volume of meat," Magistrate McLennan said in imposing penalties of $7700 each and fines of more than $500 each.
Mr Miller said traditional hunters needed to keep to their own country.
"They had no right to be here," Mr Miller said. "You have only got native rights in your own country. Over the last four years we've lost 12 turtles and three or four dugongs that we know of."
Mr Miller said some hunters had even claimed to have permission from his mum - but hunting was "men's business" so only men could give permission.
"They obviously have a better connection than I do with her - she's been dead 15 years," he said.
"We are here to defend our country and the animals within it. Hopefully, they get the message that Butchulla country isn't an easy place to get a feed."
The Butchulla have native title over Fraser Island - now known as Kgari - and have applied for the land and water roughly between Burrum River to Sandy Cape to Double Island Point to Bauple Mountain and the Mary River.