From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1997:

Fewer than 2,000 dugongs persist along the
Australian east coast and southern Great Barrier Reef, as
numbers have crashed from 50% to 80% in recent years,
partly due to storms and coastal development which have
devastated the sea grass that Australian dugongs depend on
for food, but to greater extent as the result of gillnetting,
which accounted for 15 of 30 recent dugong deaths at Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park, according to Helene Marsh of
James Cook University. Shark nets alone caught 654
dugongs off central Queensland in 1995, along with 651 dolphins
and 4,059 sea turtles. Only 45 dugongs, 31 dolphins,
and 1,420 turtles survived. Nine newly established protection
zones off Queensland may not help, warns North Queensland
Conservation Council coordinator Jeremy Tager. “The reality
is, there is no new protection from human threats to
dugnongs in these areas,” he said.” Gill netting, hunting,
coastal development, vessel traffic, and even the use of
explosives will continue in the proposed protection areas.”

An October 30 open letter to Internet conservation
message boards by Belize Center for Environmental
Studies field specialist Wil Maheia accused Guatemalan gillnetters
of slaughtering manatees for meat. Maheia said he
personally found the remains of nine illegally netted and
killed manatees, including juveniles, in just about 40 minutes
on one recent boat trip along the Belize Coast on the way
to the Snake Cayes. “I have no proof to confirm the rumor
that these manatees are going to Guatemala,” Maheia
acknowledged. “But what I can say is that I am in the field
almost every day, and I have never seen or heard of manatee
meat for sale in Belize, but I have had people confirm to me
that they bought the meat in Guatemala.”
Even after discovering that some male manatees
like Chessie wander as far as most whales, Florida Marine
Research Institute and U.S. Geological Survey researchers
were startled in August while tracking a female dubbed Sweet
Pea, who swam almost all the away around the Florida
peninsula. “Some of her behaviors aren’t normal for a female
manatee,” said FMRI researcher Brad Weigle. “The constant
motion we haven’t seen before.”

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