AN indigenous leader claims a moratorium on dug­ong and turtle hunting will not work and will only push poachers further underground.

The Coalition is preparing draft legislation to provide stronger protection for the marine creatures from over-exploitation by traditional owner groups.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has said he is not happy with some elements of the draft legislation and wants a blanket moratorium on the traditional take of the species.

Girringun Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Phil Rist said his group’s TUMRA (Traditional Use of Marine Resource Agreement) had ens­ured populations of turtles and dugongs along the Cassowary Coast remained sustainable for 10 years.

He said imposing a moratorium on hunting of the animals would push illegal hunting and exploitation further underground.

“TUMRAs around turtles and dugongs are the way to go,” he said.

“These are instruments for us – ourselves – to better manage our take of turtle and dug­ong on a sustainable level.

“These agreements are end­orsed by the State and Federal governments, and we have proven that they work and they work really well.”

Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre co-ordinator Jennie Gilbert supported a moratorium on turtle hunting, saying the animals definitely needed more protection in Far Northern waters.

“They have got enough threats in their lives without hunting,” she said. “We know that there’s illegal hunting and poaching going on out there.

“The numbers of green sea turtles in Far North Queensland still haven’t recovered from the mass stranding event of 2012, due to a lack of feeding grounds.”