Community Centred Conservation C3 - Dugong Feeding Trails - Busuanga Palawan Philippines
Dugongs populations are globally recognized as vulnerable, but have recently been classed as critically endangered in the Philippines. Dugongs have been hunted in the past using nets, prong, hook, spear, harpoon, and dynamite and the meat sold openly in public markets. Nowadays, bycatch in fishing nets is the most significant threat to the species' survival. Dugongs are also threatened by capture in fish corrals, seaweed farms and through the unregulated use of blast fishing. The dugong is reliant on shallow coastal seagrass and thus shares almost all of its habitat and natural resources with humans. Therefore, in order to successfully protect dugongs in the Philippines, it is essential that the human component is well-considered. The support and involvement of local communities is key to ensuring the continuation of the dugong in the Philippines. Busuanga Island is a recognized stronghold for dugongs in the Philippines, and our research aims to involve local communities to identify key sites for dugong conservation action. Since 2010, our team of researchers has developed strong relationships with local communities and established a community reporting network for dugong sightings. In addition, we have conducted traditional ecological knowledge interviews with expert fishermen to identify key areas for the species around the island. We are currently focussing on these key areas, using boat transect surveys to develop population estimates and more fully understand their ecology. Using these data, we will work to build community support and work with Local Government Units (LGUs) to establish locally-managed dugong sanctuaries, where activities that threaten the species’ survival (e.g. motor boat activity, net fishing) are controlled. The uniqueness of the dugong also makes it a great candidate for sustainable conservation through dugong-watching eco-tours, and an awe-inspiring flagship species for marine environmental awareness programmes.