Projections indicate that the Dugong faces extinction within the next 40 years. Recent aerial surveys and population estimates indicate that Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago National Park retains no more than 200 Dugongs; representing the last remaining viable population in the Western Indian Ocean. While the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park is an interim refuge to these Dugongs, it remains under-resourced and therefore unable to provide adequate protection to this population.
Most incidents of Dugong mortality have been linked to local commercial gill netting for shark fins - particularly in the more remote areas of the Archipelago. Dugongs are not intentionally targeted, but become entangled as bycatch, and thus far, little to no bycatch mitigation measures are implemented in Mozambique.
With the support of SOS - Save Our Species, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) partnered with the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, will apply a strategic and integrated protection programme within and outside the National Park in order to prevent Dugong bycatch and habitat loss.
The project will implement several activities to reduce Dugong mortality. A key aspect will involve improving law enforcement carried out the Park authorities by designing new strategies, policing boundaries, establishing dugong sanctuaries and fundraising.
Project activities will also focus on reviewing the existing policies on gill netting, establishing and circulating new penalties as well as procedures for releasing Dugongs caught in nets and reporting mortality. In order to ensure the sustainability of such efforts, some activities will consist of finding alternative livelihood options, capacity building and local education for these fishing communities.
The project's main objective is to secure core Dugong herds and habitat by mitigating major threats and strengthening existing structures in collaboration with various institutions and government authorities.
This involves assisting the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park improve their law enforcement effectiveness through designing and implementing a revised strategy and set of systems that will prevent Dugong entanglement in gill nets and destruction of Dugong habitat. The project will also provide technical support to the National Park by improving communication and financial administration systems so that conservation operations are enhanced. The Dugongs will as a result benefit from a reduction in destructive and unlawful fishing practices, and through the creation of sanctuaries. Moreover, long-term conservation approaches will create sustainable income sources for the Park, and identify alternative livelihoods for fishing communities.