Tamil Nadu government has notified the country’s first ‘Dugong Conservation Reserve’ in Palk Bay covering the coastal waters of Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts with an area of 448 square kilometers.
With a long coastline of 1076 km and 14 coastal districts,Tamil Nadu is blessed to have rich marine biodiversity and is home to several rare and endangered fishes and turtle species and is well poised to lead in marine species conservation.
Seagrass beds are also thebreeding and feeding grounds for many commercially valuable fishes and marine fauna. Hence, thousands of fisher families directly depend on dugong habitats for their income.
Conserving dugongs will help to protect andimprove seagrass beds and sequestering more atmospheric carbon.
The dugongs (Dugong dugon), also called the sea cow, are the largest herbivorous marine mammal in the world thriving primarily on seagrass beds, a major carbon sink of the oceans.
They can grow upto 3 meters long, weigh about 300 kilograms, and live for about 65 to 70 years, grazing on seagrass and coming to the surface to breathe.
They are found in over 30 countriesand in India dugongs are seen in the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Palk Bay, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
As of now, there are only about 240 individuals estimated to be present in the country and the majority is found in Tamil Nadu coast (Palk Bay).
Dugong is thestate animal of Andaman and Nicobar Island.
The loss of seagrass habitats, water pollution and degradation of the coastal ecosystemdue to developmental activities have made life tough for these slow-moving animals. Dugongs are also victims of accidental entanglement in fishing nets and collision with boats, trawlers.
Protection status:IUCN Red list: Vulnerable; CITES: Appendix I; WPA(1972): Schedule I.