Dugongs

Threatened Status:

  • Listed as vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992 – QLD) and globally threatened (IUCN Red List).

Location:

  • Shark Bay in WA across Australia’s northern coastline to Moreton Bay, QLD.
     

Dugongs are shy, elusive marine mammals that depend on healthy seagrass meadows for their diet.

Dugong populations have declined around the world, and the northern Great Barrier Reef is one of the last global strongholds on Earth. Australia has a global obligation to conserve and recover this species for future generations.  

About Dugongs

  • Dugongs live in northern Australia’s sheltered, coastal waters.
  • Dugong’s diet consists entirely of seagrass.
  • Dugongs can live for around 70 years, but they are slow to mature, with females reaching breeding age at around 10 years.
  • If there are stresses in their environment (such as increased cyclones and floods from climate change) then dugongs will produce fewer young.
  • The largest dugong population occurs in the Torres Strait which contains the largest continuous seagrass meadow ever recorded.
  • Females give birth every 3-7 years to a single calf, which stay with its mother for two years.
  • Dugongs can grow up to three metres in length and weigh over 500 kilograms!

 

Threats to Dugongs

Commercial gillnet fishing is a major threat to dugongs along Australia’s eastern coastline. Dugongs are air breathing marine mammals, and become entangled in fishing nets and drown. They are also threatened by pollution, poor water quality and collision with boats.

Some areas along the eastern Queensland coastline are closed to fishing to protect dugongs and other marine wildlife, but we need more net free zones in our Great Barrier Reef to ensure their recovery.

Dugongs are also threatened by climate change. Dugongs are dependent on shallow coastal waters and are vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events, such as cyclones and flooding, which destroy their critical seagrass meadows.

References

  1. http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=28
  2. http://www.afma.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/factsheet10_dugongs.pdf