The Third Meeting of Signatories (MOS3) to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (Dugong MOU) met on March 13-14 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It was the largest international gathering of its kind to focus on the conservation and management of dugongs and seagrasses. Delegates from twenty-three countries came together to bring more attention to the need for protection of dugongs through the conservation of their seagrass habitats.
Dugongs are a migratory species, occurring in the waters of many countries from East Africa to Vanuatu in the Pacific. Cooperation between these countries is crucial for the protection of dugongs and is a foundation of the Dugong MOU. To assist countries in their efforts, a new research tool was launched at the meeting. The Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit is an easily accessible resource that aims to help people in selecting the most appropriate tools and methods for dugong and seagrass conservation, taking into account local activities of coastal communities.
The Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit can be used by researchers, decision-makers and marine natural resource managers. The user-friendly toolkit leads each user step-by-step, towards a list of suitable techniques and tools that can be applied for their specific circumstances. The Toolkit will also allow funding organizations to better evaluate the details of proposals they receive. It was developed by advisors from the CMS Dugong MOU’s Dugong Technical Group, in collaboration with the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project, Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi, TOTAL, Total Abu Al Bukhoosh, and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Dugong MOU Secretariat.
The Emirati Minister of Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, emphasized: “In line with the UAE Vision 2021, we established several marine protected areas. Our waters are home to more than 3,000 dugongs. Because we recognized early on that any possible threat to seagrass beds poses a threat to dugongs, our country’s dugong population is stable."
Seagrasses are the main source of food for dugongs and they can eat up to 40 kilograms of it per day. While these single herbivorous marine mammals can live up to seventy years, they reproduce infrequently, making their conservation difficult. In the last century, the dugong population declined by twenty percent, mostly as a result of human activities. The biggest threats to dugongs and seagrasses comes from unsustainable coastal development, dangerous fishing methods, and poor waste management.
“If we conserve seagrass meadows, the dugong’s food source is protected. If we can also encourage fishing communities to adopt practices that don’t destroy seagrass and accidentally catch dugongs, we have helped secure the future of dugongs, seagrasses and those communities. In Abu Dhabi, we have recognized this interdependent relationship” explained the Secertary General of Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak.
The meeting was followed by related events throughout the whole week to support decision makers, local communities and the private sector to engage together in this goal. One of the events was a two-day Seagrass and Dugong technical workshop attended by researchers, conservationists and managers of marine resources aimed at helping participants familiarize themselves with the methods and services that the Toolkit provides.
Information on Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit prepared by the Dugong MOU Secretariat.
Article on the seagrass and dugong technical workshop from the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.