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Saudi Arabia signs pact to protect dugong

Saudi Arabia has signed an international pact to protect the dugong, a herbivorous marine mammal that used to have a constant presence on coastlines around the world, including the the coastal waters of the Kingdom and the Gulf region, but whose numbers are now on the decline.
Mohammad Saud Sulayem, adviser on International Cooperation at the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA), confirmed yesterday his country’s support toward the protection of dugongs, which have been hunted for its meat and oil in different countries for several centuries.
The MOU was signed by Sulayem on behalf of Prince Bandar bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, President of SWA, at a ceremony held in the UNEP/CMS Office in Abu Dhabi and attended by Mubarak Salem, Director of Western Region, UAE Ministry of Environment and Water.
By signing this MoU (Dugong MOU), Saudi Arabia has joined 25 other signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range.
Dugongs are large herbivorous animals, feeding predominantly on seagrass, and play a significant ecological role in the functioning of coastal ecosystems. The range of the dugong spans at least 48 countries and an estimated 140,000 kms of coastline, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
These animals are threatened by a range of harmful impacts, including drowning following incidental capture in fishing nets, loss or degradation of habitat through coastal development and strikes by vessels.
It is not clear how many dugongs remain in the coastal waters of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.