Dugong survival threatened by seagrass decline in Andaman Sea

A prominent marine biologist issued a stark warning regarding the potential threat to the survival of dugongs in the Andaman Sea due to the rapid decline of seagrass, their primary food source. Thon Thamrongnawasat, the deputy dean of Kasetsart University’s fisheries faculty, voiced his concerns in a Facebook post, emphasising his worries for the future of marine biodiversity, specifically the plight of the dugongs.

“Seagrass is disappearing at an alarming rate, covering thousands of rai. What will be left for the payoon to consume?”

The population of dugongs, locally referred to as payoon, currently stands at approximately 100 in Thailand. These marine mammals, largely inhabiting the waters of Trang and Krabi provinces, consume between 15 to 40 kilogrammes of seagrass daily.

Despite Trang boasting the largest area of seagrass, it has experienced significant losses recently, with over 10,000 rai – more than half of its seagrass – seen to be dying off, according to the biologist.

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Thon, speaking on Mcot radio yesterday, February 18, suggested that the unfolding crisis could be a result of global warming. However, he acknowledged that the exact cause of the issue in Trang remains uncertain.

“We suspect it may have a connection with global warming, a factor that can instigate environmental changes. But the precise causes remain unidentified.”

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources initiated an investigation last week into the issue in Trang and Krabi. The inquiry involved consultations with the inhabitants of Libong Island in Trang, a crucial habitat for dugongs, in an attempt to assess the situation and devise a solution.

The local islanders, praised for their conservation efforts to protect dugongs, reported that they had never witnessed such extensive death of seagrass in the last 40 to 50 years. Thon, accompanying the department on the trip, warned that the problem is spreading from Trang to the neighbouring province of Krabi, exacerbating the threat to the survival of dugongs due to the dwindling availability of food.

Although the department announced on Friday that it is exploring measures to address the issue, no specific plans have been disclosed as yet, reported Bangkok Post

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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