Dugong (Dugong dugon) populations in northern Australia are subject to multiple pressures. Commercial gill-netting and traditional hunting directly impact dugongs, while extreme weather events and catchment-based human activities degrade important seagrass habitats, impacting dugongs indirectly. These pressures can have a cumulative and compounding impact on dugong populations.

The last dugong population survey in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria occurred in 2007. The region’s Aboriginal Traditional Owners have reported that dugong numbers seem much lower through observation but lack the scientific data to confirm this.

This project will be co-designed with coastal communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria, establishing a cross-state (NT–QLD) dugong population assessment through abundance and distribution aerial surveys and genetic analyses.


As well as collecting current dugong data, this project will collaboratively design and establish the foundations for future Traditional Owner-led monitoring, including appropriate training.
Survey methods will align with previous and ongoing dugong population surveys to ensure consistency and comparability of data across years and regions.

To maximise information accessibility, data will be collated and summarised as maps, on publicly available online platforms, and as regionally relevant survey reports and communications.

Expected outcomes

  • Traditional Owner-prioritised dugong research and monitoring is implemented.
  • Dugong population data is obtained to support regional planning decisions.
  • Dugong population data is obtained to support ecological management and restoration.
  • The status of regional dugong populations is determined.
  • Priority monitoring of a threatened species established.

Project location