Endangered dugongs found dead in Abu Dhabi: drowned in gill nets

Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi Calls on public to help Protect endangered dugong.
Middle East Online 17 Dec 07;

ABU DHABI – A team of field scientists from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) this month came across two dugongs trapped in an abandoned drift Gillnet (Al Hayali), close to Abu Al Abyad Island.

“This discovery clearly demonstrates once again the vulnerability of these majestic animals to human threats. We call on the community once again to help support our efforts in protecting this endangered treasure,” said Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD.

The dugong is listed as ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ internationally and is protected locally under UAE Federal Law No. 23 (By-Laws 2001).

The law aims to fully protect dugongs and other marine wildlife, including sea turtles, from any commercial and recreational utilization of species within its range in UAE waters.

Gillnets, particularly drift gillnets locally known as Al Hayali, constitute one of the major threats to the Dugong populations within the UAE and globally.

Studies conducted by EAD experts have indicated that the two dugongs suffocated to death in gill-nets. Drift nets (Al Hayali) and Encircling gill nets ( Al Halaq) are banned by Law in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, however, abandoned nets and illegal use of banned nets continue to be a major cause of dugong mortality in the area.

Moreover, Dugongs are at risk from boat strikes and disturbances in areas, where high boating traffic coincides with dugong habitat.

Dugongs are also indirectly at risk due to the destruction of their main habitat, the seagrass.

Seagrass which occur in coastal and shallow water areas and require light for their growth, are particularly vulnerable from increasing developmental activities along the coast such as dredging, land filling, coastal clearing and land reclamation as well as eutrophication (an increase in chemical nutrients) from sewage and other effluents.

EAD has been undertaking studies on dugongs in the UAE since 1999, with funding from TOTAL ABU AL BUKHOOSH. The initial phase of the studies which extended over a period of four years focused on obtaining information on the abundance, distribution and the conservation status of dugongs in UAE.

The second phase, which is currently being implemented, further focuses on the biological and ecological aspects and stock structure of the species. Current efforts also include implementing of a dugong conservation and management plan and fostering closer regional and international cooperation in dugong conservation.

Efforts towards regional and international cooperation culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding involving all dugong range states during a meeting held in Abu Dhabi last October.
Two dugongs found dead trapped in gill net
Rayeesa Absal Gulf News 17 Dec 07;

Abu Dhabi: Scientists at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) recently came across two dead dugongs trapped in an abandoned gill net, close to Abu Al Abyad Island. The scientists said the dugongs suffocated to death after being trapped in the gill net.

The incident prompted EAD officials to call on the public to lend a hand in their efforts to protect dugongs, which have been listed as vulnerable to extinction by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

Commenting on the incident, Majid Al Mansouri, the Secretary General of EAD, said, "This discovery clearly demonstrates once again the vulnerability of these majestic animals to human threats."

He said the UAE government has taken several steps towards the protection of dugongs and conservation of its habitats.

Second largest dugong population in UAE

The UAE is home to second largest dugong population in the world. The Arabian Gulf and Red Sea hosts an estimated population of more than 7,000 dugongs, which constitutes the largest population outside Australia.

About 40 per cent of this population occurs in Abu Dhabi waters in the UAE making the UAE particularly significant in terms of global dugong conservation efforts.

Dugong population is distributed mainly along 37 nations encompassing tropical, sub-tropical coastal and inland waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

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