Environment Ministry aims to increase dugong numbers by 50% in 10 years
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment aims to increase the population of dugong in Thailand’s waters by 50%, from approximately 250, in the next ten years, said Mr. Pinsak Suraswadi, deputy director-general of the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, on Monday.
The effort will be applied to areas other than Libong Island in the southern province of Trang, which is home to most of the dugongs, such as Phra Thong Island in Phang-nga province, Si Boya Island in Krabi province, Lidee and Sarai Islands in Satun province, Kood, Mark and Kradan Islands in the eastern province of Trat, Kung Krabane bay in Chanthaburi, the Prasae estuary in Rayong province, Sattahip bay in Rayong and Pattani bay in Pattani province.
Mr. Pinsak said that the efforts to increase the population of dugongs would be jointly undertaken by officials and communities, with a plan to ban the use of fishing gear which poses a threat to endangered marine animals, including dugongs, in order to reduce the fatality rates from such fishing gear. They also plan to preserve sea grass, the main source of food for dugongs.
Mr. Pinsak chaired the first meeting of a working committee to protect rare marine species today to discuss measures to protect the remaining dugong, and other endangered marine animals, from plastic waste and dangerous fishing gear following last week’s tragic death of Mariam, after she had been cared for by officials of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources for the past four months.
Mrs. Nanthrika Chansue, director of the Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Centre at Chulalongkorn University, said at the meeting that plastic waste in the feeding grounds of the dugongs must be removed before they pose an even greater threat to the rare animals.
Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, vice dean of the Fisheries Faculty at Kasetsart University, said that trash in the seas was the main cause of the death of many endangered marine species, adding that about 80% of the trash in seas around Thailand originated from the mainland and has been washed into the sea in rivers.
A summary report of the death of endangered marine species during the past ten months shows 738 animals were found beached, including 250 whales and dolphins of which 238 were dead, 488 sea turtles which were all dead and 18 dugongs, including Mariam.
Dr. Thon also said that the working committee will try to push for the designation of August 17 of every year as National Dugong Day and for a fund to be set up for research into and conservation of dugongs.