JOHOR BARU: A tagging system to monitor the dugong may not be feasible due to high costs and low number of the mammal, said Rantau Abang Endangered Marine Species and Turtle Research Division director Syed Abdullah Syed Abdul Kadir.
“The objective of tagging is to obtain their migration pattern as well as to determine their roaming areas.
“But research showed that this approach may be costly as we have to tag at least 50% of its population.
“We will need a lot of tags and a large number of dugong in order to get solid information. And capturing the creatures to tag them may also scare them away,” he said.
“This will backfire on our cause,” he added.
Last Sunday, The Star reported on the dwindling number of dugong, also known as sea cow, in southern Johor that was previously a haven for them due to the abundance of seagrass there.
But the depleting seagrass had forced the dugong to move to the eastern part of the state.
Concerned groups have suggested tagging the dugong to keep track of them, thus creating a database to monitor their population and movements.
Syed Abdullah said the Fisheries Research Institute had recorded three dugong deaths since the beginning of this year.
There were five such deaths in 2015 and four cases in 2014, mostly due to them being hit by boats, tangled in nets or incidental catches.
He acknowledged that there had been a drastic decline in the number of dugong, citing factors such as fish bombings, hunting, unsupervised tourism, seagrass degradation and habitat loss due to land reclamation and dredging activities.
“With rapid development in Johor some dugong habitats are no longer conducive for them to inhabit,” he said.
He urged Malaysians to play their part by avoiding fishing activities and reducing the speed of their boat at areas known to be populated by dugong, as well as to keep the cleanliness of sea water by not discarding waste into it.