Fisheries department calls for MoU on dugong conservation

02 Nov 2016 / 18:57 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Fisheries Department hopes the government would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dugong Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) by March next year to help preserve the conservation of dugongs in the country.
Its director-general Datuk Ismail Abu Hassan said the signing of the MoU was vital to enable Malaysia to be part of an international platform for protecting and conserving the dugong species as it has been involved in dugong conservation since 1998.
"At present, 26 countries have already signed the MoU with CMS. Not many countries have dugong in their waters and in Malaysia, more than 100 dugongs have been discovered with the majority in Johor.
"We even have a rescue centre for injured dugongs in Johor," Ismail told a press conference on "Global Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project" here today.
The Dugong MoU aims to promote internationally coordinated action to ensure the long-term survival of dugongs and their seagrass habitats throughout their extensive range.
Ismail said that the distribution of dugongs in Malaysia primarily lies in Johor, Sarawak and Sabah where in Johor alone, at least 26 dugongs have been observed by the Fisheries Department alongside the Marine Park Department.
"Dugongs have been observed based on aerial surveys in the east coast of Kota Tinggi, Mersing, Pulau Sibu and Pulau Tinggi.
"In Sabah, dugongs were recorded in the Sandakan Bay and Labuk Bay areas, Pulau Tambisan, Kota Kinabalu harbour, Kuala Penyu, Labuan Island, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Banggi and in Sarawak dugongs were spotted in the Brunei Bay and Lawas," he added.
Meanwhile, the Programme Manager responsible for the implementation of the Dugong MoU under the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr Donna Kwan said dugongs required 40kg of seagrass a day to survive.
"Therefore, we hope that Malaysia would sign the MoU, in order for us to carry out various projects to help in conservation, one of which is through providing sufficient amounts of seagrass to the dugong species," she said during the press conference.
She said dugongs faced a high risk of being drowned in the midst of seeking seagrass for food by getting entangled in fish gear as dugongs need to breathe every seven to five minutes.
In collaboration with various agencies, the Fisheries Department had in 2015 introduced the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to shrimp trawl fishermen in the east coast that have not only saved turtles but juvenile dugongs entangled in shrimp trawl nets.
Dugongs are protected under the Fisheries Act 1985 and the Fisheries Regulations 1999 (Control of Endangered Species of Fish) for Peninsular Malaysia and Federal Territories of Labuan, Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 and the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 for Sarawak and Sabah. — Bernama

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