ABU DHABI // A rare dugong was saved off the coast of Abu Dhabi after becoming entangled in an illegal fishing net in the Unesco Marrawah Marine Protected Area.
The area, near Bu Tinah Island, is home to several species of protected marine wildlife.
It took a team from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and Seabed Geosolutions three hours to free the 1.5-metre-long marine mammal.
The fishing net, with attached floats, was tangled around the dugong’s tail, preventing it from diving and grazing on sea grasses, its staple food, meaning it could have starved to death.
“Rogue fishing gear and marine debris is a serious issue and responsible for the deaths of countless marine mammals globally,” said Abdulla Al Marzooqi from Adnoc.
“Throughout surveys we conduct, significant effort is made to recover floating rubbish and rogue fishing equipment.”
To monitor the animal, the environmental team marked it using non-toxic, lead-free paint.
During the operation they were also able, for the first time, to record the sounds of a dugong in distress, which they hope will be useful when monitoring dugong communications.
Despite being legally protected in many countries, the main causes of dugong population decline include fishing-related fatalities, habitat degradation and hunting. With its long lifespan – 70 years or more – slow rates of reproduction and largely coastal habitat, the dugong is especially vulnerable to human interference.