The Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative

The dugong, an herbivorous large marine mammal often known as the sea cow, is on its way to disappearing from most of its range. Without substantial and effective interventions, dugongs will become extinct across much of its range. Dugongs are hunted for food and accidently drowned in fishing gear throughout the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins. Dugongs depend on healthy coastal seagrass meadows for food and habitat. These seagrass ecosystems also provide important habitat and breeding grounds for many marine species, including fishery species that millions of people around the globe depend on daily for their livelihoods. Those same seagrass beds provide a suite of environmental services to humanity, including coastal protection and carbon sequestration. At least one-third of the world’s seagrass habitat has already been lost, and the remaining habitat is currently disappearing at a rate of approximately 7% per year.

In 2007, the United Nations Environment Programme initiated a global conservation agreement in response to the alarming decline of dugongs and seagrass habitats. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range, under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, is viewed by all Signatory States as a crucial mechanism to preserve this species. With support from the Government of United Arab Emirates through the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, a Secretariat was created to support dugong range nations. Most recently, the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project was launched. With financing from GEF, the project aims to enhance the conservation of dugongs and their associated seagrass ecosystems in eight countries in the Indo-Pacific region: Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and Vanuatu.

We have been an active partner of these projects since 2010. ACS serves as a Technical Advisor to the Secretariat, is on the Executive Project Steering Committee, and is helping design and implement a program in Thailand.

For more information, check out The Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative or visit the CMS website.