Monday, 27 February 2012 - A program to improve livelihoods and create economic opportunity in exchange for the conservation of dugongs and their seagrass habitat was officially launched in Abu Dhabi on 26 February 2012.
Dr. Nicolas J. Pilcher, Technical Advisor for the UNEP/CMS Dugong MOU Secretariat.
The Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative aims to attract funding partners whose investment in rural coastal communities and local partnerships will return financial and environmental benefits to communities in developing nations. The initiative will provide incentives for conservation activities and environmental safeguarding across the dugong’s range using innovative financial, educational and knowledge transfer tools.
The initiative was launched at the S.O.S: Save Our Sirenians – Dugongs and West African Manatees event in Abu Dhabi, which opened with an address from Dr. Thabit Z. Al Abdessalaam, Executive Director of the Marine and Terrestrial Biodiversity Sector, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi followed by an introduction to the initiative from Dr. Donna Kwan, Programme Officer for the UNEP/CMS Dugong MoU. Dr. Nicolas J. Pilcher, Technical Advisor for the UNEP/CMS Dugong MoU Secretariat, went on to explain that this approach addresses the joint challenges of 21st century environmental conservation and sustainable development, while maximising the impact of investors’funding by combining investment with conservation and development tools.
The initiative’s flagship species is the dugong, but its broader contribution will be to show how pioneering partnerships among investors, local communities, conservationists and scientists can combine conservation efforts, sustainable development and financial investment to the benefit of all. Prof. Helene Marsh, Technical Advisor for the UNEP/CMS Dugong MoU Secretariat and internationally recognised expert on sirenians, gave presentations entitled ‘The West African Manatee in Crisis’ and ‘Dugongs at the Edge’.
Dr. Donna Kwan, Programme Officer, UNEP/CMS Office - Abu Dhabi, Prof. Helene Marsh, Technical Advisor for the UNEP/CMS Dugong MOU Secretariat, and Dr. Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, Executive Director of the Marine and Terrestrial Biodiversity Sector, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.
The presentations highlighted the need for coordinated effort in preserving the existence of both of these species, remembering that the dugong’s closest modern relative, the Steller’s sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The event was organized by the UNEP/CMS Office - Abu Dhabi which services two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU): the Dugong MoU and the African Eurasian Birds of Prey MoU. They operate under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). The UNEP/CMS Office - Abu Dhabi is funded and hosted by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi on behalf of the Government of the United Arab Emirates.
S.O.S: “Save Our Sirenians”