Technical report

File type: PDF

Cleguer C, Hamel M, Rankin RW, Genson A, Edwards C, Collins K, Crowe M, Choukroun S, Marsh H (2023). ‘2022 Dugong Aerial Survey: Mission Beach to Moreton Bay’, JCU Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research Publication 23/44, Townsville.



  • Dugongs are of significant biodiversity value as the only extant species in the Family Dugongidae and one of only four species in the Order Sirenia, all of which are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN.
  • Australia has international responsibilities for dugong conservation, particularly in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region, where the dugong feeding grounds are listed as one of the World Heritage values of the region.
  • Dugongs have been monitored along the Queensland coast since the 1980s using a series of standardised aerial surveys. These surveys have provided long-term information on the distribution and abundance of dugongs, which has informed management and are a requirement of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan). The surveys have been loosely coordinated across jurisdictions and largely conducted at the same time of year at approximately five-year intervals. The areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef have been included to account for temporary migrations of dugongs across jurisdictional boundaries.
  • This report presents the result of an aerial survey for dugongs and large juvenile and adult marine turtles that was conducted in November-December 2022 in the coastal waters of Queensland from Mission Beach to the Queensland-New South Wales border. The survey is the latest in the time series of surveys conducted by James Cook University-TropWATER researchers since the 1980s.

The objectives of this study were to:

  1. Continue the time series of surveys for dugongs and large marine turtles.
  2. To use the latest programming, modelling, and statistical advances to enhance our dugong distribution and abundance analysis.
  3. Engage with First Nations people across the surveyed area to: (1) raise awareness about dugong and sea turtle ecology and conservation issues, (2) seek interest from the communities in becoming involved in dugong survey work at different spatial scales, particularly aerial imagery surveys.
  4. Discuss new avenues for reducing uncertainty in the results for the surveys and the potential of new research tools for dugong monitoring in the future
  5. Provide advice to relevant management partners (GBRMPA, DCCEEW, and the Queensland Government) and Traditional Owners about the implications of the findings for the conservation, management, and monitoring of dugongs and large marine turtles1 in the southern GBR, Hervey Bay-GSS and Moreton Bay.