04 March 2009

Dead dugong in Phuket was probably killed by fishing equipment

This is the eighth recorded dugong death in the area since October 2008.
The dugong appeared to have been in a healthy condition right up to the moment of death. “Sea grass was still left in her mouth, proving that the dugong was eating food only moments before she died. This indicates that she was healthy.”

An examination suggests it died suddenly of injuries sustained though contact with fishing equipment.

Dead dugong likely killed by fishing equipment
Phuket Gazette 3 Mar 09;
AO PANWA, PHUKET: An examination of a dead dugong found floating in Phang Nga Bay late last month suggests it died suddenly of injuries sustained though contact with fishing equipment, a leading marine biologist has revealed.

A ferry found the female dugong on February 27 and its crew brought the 1.6-meter, 86-kilogram carcass to the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) for examination.

The examination, which took place this afternoon, revealed that the dugong appeared to have been in a healthy condition right up to the moment of death.

Veterinarian Sontaya Manawattana told the Gazette that “sea grass was still left in her mouth, proving that the dugong was eating food only moments before she died. This indicates that she was healthy.”

It is suspected that the mammal died as the result of an encounter with fishing equipment.

This latest discovery marks the eighth recorded dugong death since October, 2008.

“The dugong population numbers about 250 in the Andaman Sea and around 50 in the Gulf of Thailand. They are in danger of disappearing from the Andaman Sea altogether, so they need to be protected,” said Dr Sontaya.

Dugong population under threat from commercial fishing
mcot.net 5 Mar 09;

Thailand’s dugong population is now under threat. Trawling and fishing by push net has caused a dramatic and continuous decline in the marine animal’s population. According to official statistics, more than 10 dugongs have died over the past 4 months as a result of commercial fishing.

The autopsy of a 40-year-old male dugong in Thailand’s Satun province clearly showed the animal did not die from illness or infection. Instead, the oedema in its chest helped confirm the dugong had struggled to survive so hard it was finally died of shock.

A marine biologist at Phuket Marine Biological Centre, who performed an autopsy for this dugong, believed fishing tools were the culprit.

“Although there’s no wound on its body caused by a fishing tool, there are traces inside the body, which indicate the dugong suffered a serious shock. For instance, an oedema in pericardium and a blood clot in the torso. These traces were believed to be from a fishing tool,” said Phaothep Cherdsukjai, a marine biologist.

Phuket Marine Biological Centre Commercial fishing, namely by trawler and push net, is directly resulting in a sharp drop in the dugong population, as well as other endangered species such as sea turtles.

Illegal fishing within restricted area of 3,000 metres from the shoreline causes the large animals to be trapped in a net, unable to push themselves up to breathe on the sea’s surface, which finally ends in their death.

“If illegal fishing persists, within the next 10 to 20 years, endangered marine species including dugongs and sea turtles would become extinct in the Thai ocean,” said Phaothep.

Construction of wharves, owing to growth of the tourism business, is also impacting on the survival of seagrass which is the dugong’s source of food.

If no immediate measures are taken by the government, the dugong might become a thing of the past in Thai waters.

More links
Seven dugongs dead in six months in Thailand

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