Sea Sense Dugong Conservation Initiatives

Dugong Monitoring Network

A dugong monitoring network has been established in the Rufiji Delta which is the last known refuge in Tanzania for this critically endangered species. Members of the network, comprising Conservation Officers, local fishers and village leaders, record live dugong sightings and report dugong gill net mortalities. Sea Sense is collaborating with James Cook University in Australia to analyse genetic samples taken from dead specimens in order to determine dugong population dynamics in the Western Indian Ocean. 

Since the establishment of the dugong monitoring network in 2004, 56 dugong sightings have been reported to Sea Sense.  Of these, 41 were live sightings (including two mother/calf pairs), 14 had drowned in gill nets (including one mother/calf pair) and one was stranded on a beach.  Even though sightings are rare, there is clear evidence that a small breeding population exists in the Rufiji Delta.  There has been a steady increase in the number of reports of dugong sightings since 2004 which can most likely be attributed to Sea Sense awareness and education programmes.

Population Surveys

Sea Sense has conducted several aerial and ground surveys to assess the distribution and abundance of dugongs in the Rufiji Delta. A mother and calf were observed in seagrass beds during one aerial survey but no other observations were made.

Due to the high cost of aerial surveys, Sea Sense has turned to lower-cost survey techniques including interview surveys which can yield important information on distribution and abundance and help to quantify the threat from fisheries interactions. Sea Sense has recently conducted questionnaire surveys in Mkinga and Mtwara Districts which were known to support large dugong populations in the past.  Sadly, the results of the surveys indicate that dugongs are no longer present in these areas. Some scientists estimate there to be less than one hundred individuals left in Tanzania although the true population size remains unknown.  

Dugong Education & Awareness

The increased degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems and decreases in yield of important fish stocks has led to the development of Collaborative Fisheries Management Areas (CFMA’s) as a vehicle for achieving sustainable marine resource use and engaging coastal communities in their conservation.  CFMA’s have been formed by a number of neighbouring villages sharing a common fishing ground with the aim of working in partnership to manage the shared resources and improve environmental conditions and the livelihoods of coastal communities. Sea Sense has held dugong education workshops for CFMA committee members in the Rufiji Delta and Mafia Island to ensure dugong conservation measures are incorporated into local marine resource action plans.

Did you know?

Over a quarter of the Tanzanian population live in the coastal zone and rely solely on marine resources for their livelihoods.


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