The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

What is CMS?

CMS is the Convention on Migratory Species (the full name is the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals).  It is also known as the Bonn Convention, because the intergovernmental conference where the Convention was negotiated took place in Bonn in 1979.

The text of the Convention was negotiated in 1979 and the Convention entered into force on 1 November 1983 after 15 Governments had ratified it. The Secretariat that administers the Convention was established in 1984.

The languages of CMS are English, French and Spanish.

How many Parties does CMS have?

As of 1 December 2017, there are 126 Parties to the Convention – 125 countries plus the European Union. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the latest Party to join the Convention.

What species are covered by CMS?

Mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and one insect are listed on the Convention’s two Appendices, including many whales and dolphins, bats, gorillas, antelopes, albatrosses, raptors, waterbirds, sharks, sturgeons, marine turtles and the Monarch Butterfly.

Appendix I lists migratory species that are endangered.

Appendix II lists migratory species which have an unfavourable conservation status and which require international agreements for their conservation and management.  It also includes species whose conservation status would significantly benefit from the international cooperation that could be achieved by an international agreement.

The text of the Convention is available here along with the all the species covered by the Convention and the Appendices.

What is a migratory species?

For the purposes of the Convention, a migratory species is one that cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries.  The full definition is set out in Article I, paragraph 1 of the Convention.

How is the Convention run?

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the main decision-making body of the Convention.  The COP meets approximately one every three years.  The most recent meeting of the COP (COP12) took place in the Philippines in 2017.

Between meetings of the COP, the Standing Committee oversees policy and implementation.  The Standing Committee meets once in the years between the COP, as well as immediately before the and immediately after the COP.

Technical advice is provided by the Scientific Council. Each Party can nominate a member and the Conference of Parties appoints a number of experts (currently nine) with specialist knowledge of regional fauna, animal groups or other topics such as bycatch and climate change.

A Secretariat provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) administers the Convention, preparing documents, organising meetings and coordinating policy. The Secretariat is based in the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany.

What is the ‘CMS Family’?

CMS was designed to be an umbrella Convention giving rise to more specific instruments dealing with specific species or groups of species often in clearly defined regions.  As a result, seven Agreements, international treaties in their own right have been concluded, together with 19 less formal legally non-binding Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).  Together, the Convention, the Agreements and the MOUs are known as the ‘CMS Family’.


CMS Office - Abu Dhabi

When was CMS Office – Abu Dhabi established?

The CMS Office – Abu Dhabi has been hosted by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates since 2009.  

The CMS Office – Abu Dhabi is the CMS Secretariat’s largest out-posted office and is home to the Coordinating Unit of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia and the Dugong MOU Secretariat.


Dugong MOU

What is the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (Dugong MOU)?

The Dugong MOU is an agreement under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. The Dugong MOU aims to promote internationally coordinated actions to ensure the long-term survival of dugongs and their seagrass habitats throughout their range. The Dugong MOU entered into effect on 31 October 2007 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. To date, three Meetings of Signatories (MOS) to the Dugong MOU have taken place. You can read the reports from each

MOS on the Meeting pages. MOS take place every three years; the next MOS is expected to be held in 2020.

How many Signatories does the Dugong MOU have?

As of March 2019, the Dugong MOU has 27 Signatories.

How many Range States does the Dugong MOU cover?

The Dugong MOU has 46 Range States throughout tropical and sub-tropical coastal waters from East Africa to Vanuatu in the Pacific.

What is the aim of the Dugong MOU?

The aim of the Dugong MOU is to achieve a favourable conservation status for dugongs and their seagrass habitats, throughout their range. Signatories to the Dugong MOU implement activities, which are guided by the Conservation and Management Plan, which is annexed to the MOU.

What is the Dugong MOU Conservation and Management Plan?

The Conservation and Management Plan (CMP) guides Signatories to implement actions that conserve dugongs and their seagrass habitats.

The CMP has nine objectives:

  • Reduce direct and indirect causes of dugong mortality.
  • Improve understanding of dugongs through research and monitoring.
  • Protect, conserve and manage habitats for dugongs.
  • Improve understanding of dugongs through research and monitoring of their habitats.
  • Raise awareness of dugong conservation.
  • Enhance national, regional and international cooperation.
  • Promote implementation of the MOU.
  • Improve legal protection of dugongs and their habitats.
  • Enhance national, regional and international cooperation on capacity building.

At the Third Meeting of Signatories to the Dugong MOU on 13-14 March 2017, Signatories agreed to the need to review the implementation of the CMP to date, and to revise the CMP to ensure that it remains current, addresses new and emerging threats, and aligns with relevant international policy mandates such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

What are the objectives of the Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative?

The objectives of the Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative are:

Vision: To improve livelihoods and create economic opportunity in exchange for dugong and environmental stewardship.

Target Communities: Rural coastal communities in Dugong MOU Range States, especially in the South West Indian Ocean, Western Pacific islands, South Asia and South East Asia.

Services: Provide incentives for conservation activities and environmental stewardship across the dugong’s range using innovative financial, educational and knowledge transfer tools that encourage development and assist in accessing wider markets.



What is a dugong?

The dugong (Dugong dugon) is a herbivorous marine mammal and the only member of the family Dugongidae. The dugong is classified as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, indicating that there is a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.

Where do dugongs live?

The dugong’s range extends to 46 countries from East Africa to Vanuatu in the Pacific. A full list of Signatories and Range States is available online.  

What is the dugong’s primary food?

Dugongs are dependent on seagrasses for food. Seagrasses are generally restricted to shallow coastal waters where the seabed receives enough light for photosynthesis to occur.

How long do dugongs live?

Dugongs can live for a long time. The oldest dugong recorded was 73 years old. 

What is the weight and the length of an adult dugong?

Dugongs can grow up to 3 metres and weigh up to 500 kilograms.

At what age do female dugongs first give birth?

A dugong will have its first calf between 6-18 years old. Dugongs are pregnant for 14 months and give birth to live young. They usually only have one calf at a time which is breast-fed for 18 months before it can eat seagrass. A dugong will have a calf every 3-7 years under ideal conditions.

Why is seagrass so important to dugongs?

Seagrass is essential for the survival of dugongs. They rely on seagrass for food and for reproduction. Dugongs need to put on weight in order to mature and then get pregnant.

Seagrasses are important to a number of other species, such as marine turtles, and provide a number of seagrass ecosystem services. Ecosystem services provided by seagrasses include providing nursery grounds for fish and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (blue carbon).

What are the threats and challenges to dugongs and seagrasses?

The slow reproductive cycle and late maturity of dugongs make them particularly vulnerable to threats including bycatch, direct catch/hunting, vessel strikes and habitat loss.

Key threats to seagrasses include destructive fishing methods, land use impacts, cyclone damage and pollution. 

Why should we protect dugongs?

Dugongs play an important ecological role in coastal marine ecosystems, and due to their biology, they can be particularly susceptible to threats. By protecting dugongs, we are also protecting seagrasses and the important ecosystem services that they provide. In addition to providing an indicator of ecosystem health, dugongs also play a significant role in the culture of many coastal communities.

What is the difference between a manatee and a dugong?

There are a number of differences between dugongs and manatees as shown in this infographic. Dugongs are strictly marine mammals, and they have a fluke-like tail, similar to that of a dugong. Manatees migrate between marine and freshwater ecosystems and have a paddle shaped tail.

What is the difference between seaweed and seagrass?

There are a number of differences between seagrass and seaweed as shown in this infographic. Seagrass is a flowering plant, and like terrestrial plants, they anchor to the ground using roots. Seaweed is a type of large algae that anchors onto rocks and other objects using holdfasts.


Interactions with dugongs

What should I do if I find a stranded dugong?

If you find a stranded dugong (sick, injured or deceased) you should immediately contact the relevant environmental authority in your country, state or region to report the incident. You should be prepared to provide the person taking your call with information about the location of the stranded animal, a description of the type of animal (if not a dugong), and of what is wrong with the animal.

Do not approach or touch a stranded dugong. The relevant authority will take charge of the situation and advise you of what, if any, further actions you should take.

Can I swim with dugongs?

In general, a person should not enter the water during an interaction with dugongs, nor should they attempt to touch or feed a dugong. Signatories to the Dugong MOU have international obligations to conserve dugongs. In many countries, dugongs are protected under national or state legislation. In many locations, you may be able to participate in dugong watching activities. Before participating in such an activity, it is important to ensure that your tour provider is meeting the required local laws (i.e. has a permit, travels at the appropriate speeds etc.), and to familiarise yourself with local rules of dugong watching.

Boats should always observe local speed restrictions to ensure they do not disturb dugongs, especially when passing over seagrass beds in known dugong hot spots.