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World Chips In To Retire Two Great Barrier Reef Fishing Licences

World Wildlife Fund's brave new type of conservation is working.

21/07/2016 3:05 PM AEST | Updated 22/07/2016 8:19 AM AEST
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Pete Atkinson
The reef is being protected by the removal of fishing licences.

When one of five Great Barrier Reef fishing trawler licences was put up for sale, WWF Australia didn't have the $100,000 asking price, but they bought it anyway.

In a "new type of conservation" the organisation asked for donations to cover the cost of the lifetime licence which would now be retired, estimating it would save 10,000 sharks a year.

The world responded, raising more than the $100,000 in less than a month. Now a second identical licence has come on the market and WWF Australia is already halfway to reaching that target as well.

What is the licence?

A Fisheries Queensland spokesperson said the licences were two of five that carried an "N4" authority which allowed the use of a 1.2 km net to catch fish including some sharks in Queensland East Coast offshore waters, north of Double Island Point near Caloundra.

While some parts of the Great Barrier Reef are no-take zones, other regions allow fishing.

The licence allows for the fishing of some sharks, but opponents worry protected animals also get caught and killed in the nets, with evidence of protected turtles, dugongs and dolphins being caught and killed in the nets, then discarded.

Conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said it was new territory for the organisation.

"We asked for donations and we have been blown away by the response," Llewellyn said.

"People from more than 30 countries have reached into their pockets. We're impressed, surprised and grateful.

"People see our idea as a practical way to save sharks and prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as bycatch.

"Dead dugongs, dolphins and turtles found with net marks indicate these species are dying as bycatch at a time when their populations are under pressure."

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