New conservation plan launched to mark Pacific Year of the Dugong
Bonn (Germany) / Palau, 14 March 2011 - A new pilot project using financial incentives to address direct hunting and the accidental capture of dugongs by changing people's practices and improving the livelihoods of local communities are among the initiatives to be promoted under the Pacific Year of the Dugong 2011.
The campaign, launched today in Palau by President Johnson Toribiong and Minister of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism Harry Fritz, is a boost to the conservation of the mermaid-like sea cow and its seagrass habitats. Palau hosts the smallest, most remote and critically endangered dugong population in the region.
The initiative to protect the dugong, led by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and its partner the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS), will target local coastal and fishing communities and water craft users in the Pacific region by showing that livelihoods and conservation are linked.
Dugongs, which play a significant ecological role in the functioning of coastal habitats, live in warm coastal and island waters from East Africa to Vanuatu in the Pacific. The action plan developed under the UNEP/CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (Dugong MoU) provides the framework for the regional cooperation for the long-term protection of dugongs in the Indian Ocean, South East Asia, South Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.
CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said: "Innovative measures under the CMS action plan will help protect dugongs and other marine species. Financial incentives will be promoted to make sure that conservation needs and sustainable development are reconciled at the community level."
Two pilot projects are currently being developed in Daru, Papua New Guinea, and Bazaruto Bay in Mozambique to reduce hunting and bycatch by providing some form of incentive to drive behavioural change - this might be in the form of loans, or payments for ecosystem services, for lessening their catches or for changes to more dugong-friendly fishing gear.