India: Population of ‘sea cows’ off Gujarat coast declining, says minister

The Indian Express 26 Mar 13;

Ahmedabad A survey by the Wildlife Institute of India has confirmed the dugong population off Gujarat coast is declining because of fishing-related activities, pollution and habitat degradation, Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has said.

The Gulf of Kutch is the only region in the western Indian coast where the mammal, also known as sea-cow due to its appearance and vegetarian diet that mainly comprises of sea-grass, is found.

The marine mammal's population off Tamil Nadu, another area it is found, is also declining, the minister told Trinamool Congress MP Professor Saugata Roy, who raised a question in the Lok Sabha.

"The Government of India has supported the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation to assess the populations of dugong using interview based survey in 2009 and found that the populations of dugong were declined in its all ranges," Natarajan said.

"Primary analysis of the survey carried out by WII in 2012-13 has also confirmed that the dugong populations in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is declining due to fisheries related activities, pollution and habitat degradation. However, the dugong population in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is found to be stable," she added.

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