Turning the Tide Newsletter – Summer 2024
Dugongs play an important role in our coastal marine ecosystems.
These enormous vegetarian marine mammals live in warm tropical coastal waters from East Africa to Australia, grazing on seagrass beds which they need to survive.
Sadly, our global dugong populations are in trouble. Threats to dugongs include climate change and seagrass loss, entanglement and drowning in fishing nets, boat strike and habitat degradation due to coastal development and declining water quality.
Australia is the largest and most important refuge for dugongs on our blue planet. This means that what we do here matters at a global level.
Latest research shows the Southern Great Barrier Reef dugong population, from Hinchinbrook to Bundaberg, has been declining at 2.3% a year since 2005, with estimates of approximately 2,100
individuals left. Alarmingly, very few calves were seen in the southern Reef, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the population.
The study also found an alarming decline in the Hervey Bay dugong population to 1,533 individuals. Back-to-back flooding events in 2022 decimated seagrass, the primary food source for the species.
Facts & Figures
COMMON NAME: Dugong
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Dugong dugon
GROUP NAME: Herd
LIFESPAN: 70 years
SIZE (ADULT): 2.5 to 3 metres
WEIGHT: 230 to 500 kg
CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable
POPULATION TREND: Decreasing