Full force of the law needed to save stricken dugongs
23 May 2012 | News story
Law enforcement is key to saving one of the world’s most threatened marine mammals - the Dugong (Dugong dugon) - and a project funded by SOS - Save Our Species is on the case in Mozambique.
The Dugong is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - its population has declined by 30% in the last six decades. Applying the correct penalties for illegal fishing is crucial for reducing the entanglement of dugongs in gill nets - one of the major threats to this shy species.
East Africa’s last viable dugong population is represented by an estimated 200 individuals found in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. This population is geographically isolated and remains under threat from entanglement in gill nets and habitat destruction.
Recently, during several patrols, law enforcement officers in the National Park were able to remove two unattended gill nets and confiscate reef fishing gear from a crew operating in a specially protected zone.
“Bazaruto’s Dugongs could vanish in as little as 40 years unless the most significant threats to this population are mitigated,” says Karen Allen, Dugong project leader. “Through effective partnerships, and applying both a top-down and bottom-up conservation approach, Bazaruto’s Dugongs have a chance of survival.”
Throughout Mozambique, dugong numbers have been reduced by incidental takes (bycatch) in small-scale gill net fisheries, as well as by deliberate hunting. Local extinctions have occurred where populations were previously robust.
With the support of SOS, South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), an IUCN Member, is able to develop a revised law enforcement strategy and establish systems that will enhance conservation of the National Park.
SOS support has enabled the purchase of critical law enforcement equipment which will help the project raise further funds for aerial surveillance and monitoring. This will allow regular observation of the National Park and areas of special protection. The surveillance flights will double as additional law enforcement support and also collect current dugong sightings and distribution data.
It is hoped the long term success of the project will be ensured by transferring conservation management skills to the National Park’s law enforcement officers.
For more information please check out the SOS-funded Dugong project.