Dugong population increasing
The dugong population in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea appears to be on the rise as indicated by the latest count this year, according to the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
Director-general Atthapon Charoenchansa said most dugongs in Thailand are found scattered in seagrass fields of the Andaman and the Gulf of Thailand. Some live near islands.
Surveys in fiscal 2022 showed there were 273 dugongs found in the South of Thailand. Some 242 live in the Andaman Sea while the other 31 are in the Gulf of Thailand, he said.
Even though the number of dugongs has risen, carcasses of sick and stranded specimens are also often found.
In the same fiscal year, surveys found there had been 18 stranded dugongs, 73% of which had died.
Mr Atthapon cited illness as the main cause of death, along with straying from their herd and being hit by solid objects such as stingray spines or fishing gear.
From October to December, the department has found seven dead dugongs in Rayong, Chon Buri, Trang, Krabi and Surat Thani provinces.
Three died from sickness, two died as a result of being hit by solid objects, one was trapped in fishing gear and the cause of death for the last one was not identified.
Mr Atthapon said the department is endorsing dugong conservation efforts through the Mariam Project, a programme named after a baby dugong that died from swallowing plastic waste.
The department has increased the population from 250 to 273. It aims to reach 280 in the near future.
He said the department will provide training for local people as a part of the project, to teach them about the preservation and restoration of seagrass ecosystems on which dugongs rely for their food.
Mr Atthapon said he supports a ban on fishing gear and other activities that can hurt the marine animals in their habitats. The sale and consumption of their body parts is also strictly prohibited.
Dugong is a rare marine mammal called payoon in Thai.