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Saving sea cows helps ensure human food security

16 March 2017


A new online toolkit is helping community groups, citizen scientists, conservation bodies and governments to research and protect seagrass, sea cows and the communities reliant on ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Both Dugong, more commonly known as sea cows, and seagrass habitats are threatened by unsustainable fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources, resulting in habitat loss habitat loss and degradation. By learning about Dugong movements as well as seagrass-dependent fishery resources, communities can help to maintain sustainable fisheries whilst contributing to the protection of important Dugong populations and improving livelihoods.

Developed by an international team of experts, the Dugong & Seagrass Research Toolkit will be promoted for use across the Dugong’s range, and can be adapted to other parts of the world where the other sirenian species, manatees, live.

Benjamin Jones, one of the seagrass experts who worked on the toolkit, said “Seagrass meadows support fisheries across the Indo-Pacific, and are increasingly recognised for their ability to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Yet, these highly productive habitats are being lost at rates faster than rain forests and coral reefs, putting at risk already endangered migratory species.”

As a common endeavour, Governments agreed to work with the Dugong and seagrass research and conservation community to undertake more standardised research and monitoring activities as a prerequisite for devising tailored conservation measures in their own countries. Better coordination of surveys and data exchange on Dugong populations between countries will improve transboundary protection.

The toolkit was launched at the third Meeting of Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats (Dugong MOU), and followed by a two-day expert workshop attended by 125 conservation practitioners from around the Indo-Pacific region. The international gathering was the largest of its kind ever to be held.