New CMS Agreement Signed to Save Sea Cows

Abu Dhabi, 31 October 2007 – A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the conservation of dugongs in the Indian Ocean has been signed and entered into force today under the auspices of CMS. The signing ceremony took place on the final day of a range states meeting hosted by Abu Dhabi.
 
The agreement is designed to facilitate national level and transboundary actions to conserve Dugong populations and their habitats. Dugongs are vulnerable to anthropogenic influences due to their life history (they are late and slow breeders), their extensive range and their distribution along rapidly changing coastal habitats throughout several countries. Given the dugong’s migrations across borders, coordinating management initiatives across these boundaries will be crucial to its long-term survival. Without a multilateral approach and internationally cooperative decision-making, the future of the dugong looks bleak.
 
Dugongs are hunted for food, usually for their meat and blubber, throughout their range. Also, the sea grass beds which the dugong depends on are threatened by eutrophication caused by agricultural and industrial runoff. Due to their feeding habits, dugongs are frequently injured or killed by collisions with motor vessels.
 
The dugong's current distribution is reduced and scattered, and many populations are close to extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) classifies the dugong as “Vulnerable”, meaning that it is threatened by extinction. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species limits or bans the trade of derived products based on the species. Despite being legally protected in many countries throughout their range, the main causes of decline of dugong population remain manmade.
 
The associated Conservation and Management Plan (CMP) to the new agreement concluded under CMS lists nine objectives and an annex containing examples of specific activities to protect the species. International cooperation within a legal framework and educational activities to create understanding for long-term conservation needs will promote the agreement’s implementation.
 
CMS Executive Secretary, Robert Hepworth said: “Sirenians, sometimes known as sea-cows are at last getting the attention they deserve as vulnerable, highly migratory marine mammals. Two weeks ago in Tenerife range states agreed the text for a new CMS agreement on th Dugong’s “cousin” – the West African Manatee. Today an agreement negotiated over the last two years will protect dugongs throughout their entire migratory range in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In the future we may be able to develop a conservation agreement for the remaining manatees of the Western Atlantic and Caribbean CMS congratulates all the seven range states who have signed the new dugong agreement today and brought into immediate effect.” 
 
The dugong agreement, whose development was spearheaded by Australia, Thailand and Abu Dhabi (UAE), should trigger actions in time to stop the decline, which the sea cow is undergoing.
 
The dugong (Dugong dugon) is a large marine mammal which, together with the three species of manatee, is one of four extant members of the order Sirenia, the only fully-aquatic herbivorous mammals. The dugong is the only strictly-marine herbivorous mammal, as all species of manatee utilise fresh water to some degree. The dugong is heavily dependent on sea grasses and is thus restricted to the coastal habitats where they grow, with the largest dugong concentrations typically occurring in wide, shallow, protected areas such as bays, mangrove channels and the lee sides of large inshore islands. 

Last updated on 05 October 2019