EACOP implementation revives hopes for restoring dugongs

TANGA: IMPLEMENTATION of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project is reviving hopes for finding and preserving dugongs.

The dugong is the marine mammal that inhabits in warm coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, feeds on seagrasses and is similar to the American manatee.

Mr Mohammed Nuru, the project’s biodiversity coordinator, said they would soon be conducting environmental DNA studies in the vicinity of the area where the jetty is being constructed in order to determine the presence of dugongs, which were plentiful in the past at the area.

“The presence of these rare sea creatures, which are endangered species, is supported by the marine ecosystem in the area. We are committed to investigate the potential of dugongs remaining in the area but hidden due to over-exploitation,” he said.

Mr Nuru noted that they feel such mammals might still exist in the area due to the presence of conditions that support the existence of the endangered sea mammals.

“This would greatly contribute to future endeavours in protecting and preserving endangered species,” he pointed out.

Dugongs that occur in shallow tropical and subtropical coastal and island waters of the Indo-Pacific are threatened worldwide due to the loss and degradation of seagrass pastures, fishing pressure, indigenous use and hunting, and coastal pollution.

They are listed globally by IUCN as vulnerable to extinction.

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region harbours an important remnant population of the threatened dugongs and in a recent UNEP/IUCN report on their global status, the extinction of the dugongs in the WIO region was considered inevitable without immediate and effective conservation measures.

The EACOP biodiversity Coordinator said that the study was based on the project’s philosophy which is based on four fundamental tenets under the name of AMRO. AMRO stands for Avoid, Mitigation, Restoration, and Offset.

He pointed out that great care is being made to reduce the impact and restore those resources.

“For example, the construction of the jetty for receiving and exporting crude oil from Hoima in Uganda will affect only 40 square metres of coral reefs and 240 square metres of mangroves,” he reminded the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) Board members.

He said the project was collaborating with numerous environmental experts and organisations to mitigate the impact.

The University of Dar es Salaam, for instance, has been enlisted to foster the growth of seagrass around the location where the pipeline is being built.

On the other hand, he stated that the research would not be limited to the dugong but would include other species.

He also stated that research on the noises inside the water will be conducted next month, stating that noise has a significant impact on marine organisms and that the project has made precautions to limit noise throughout the jetty’s development.

Mr Geoffrey Mponda, EACOP’s Director for Human Resources and Corporate Affairs said that the project has made considerable financial investments in research to protect ecosystem biodiversity and enhance the value of those areas.

Mr Mponda disclosed that numerous experts have been engaged to perform research aimed at protecting biodiversity, including endangered species of plants and animals, in the regions where the project operates.

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