This morning it was confirmed that the large manatee-like creature many boaters have spotted at the protected area of Studland Bay is a lone Dugong, an endangered marine mammal commonly known as the sea cow. Although Dugongs reside in coastal areas their presence in UK waters is usually unheard of, with their primary habitat including the tropical and subtropical regions from East Africa to the Pacific islands.
Although Dugongs are known to migrate vast distances experts are stunned by the Dugongs choice of Studland Bay as its new marine habitat. Research is still ongoing, however the herbivorous nature of the Dugong and reliance on seagrass habitats has been identified as contributing factor in this unusual migration pattern. Given that projects in this region, such as the installation of eco-moorings by boatfolk and The Seahorse Trust, have had a positive impact on the protection of the seagrass meadows this area now provides a much more preferable habitat for the Dugong.
A spokesperson from boatfolk had this to say:
“We always knew that the installation of eco-moorings at Studland Bay would have a positive impact on seagrass meadows and the creatures which are reliant on it as a habitat. Although our focus was always on providing a safe breeding ground for endangered native species such as the Spiny Seahorse this just demonstrates how important the protection of seagrass meadows is for all marine creatures”
Experts comment that this may not be the only Dugong that makes its way to UK shores. With damage to seagrass habitats and climate change causing the rise of sea temperatures it may be that migration becomes increasingly common in upcoming years. There is a serious need for action to be taken to protect our seas, with a focus on looking after seagrass meadows and the native species that rely on them to survive.
Although the Studland Bay Dugong may be fictitious the threat to our oceans isn’t. We’re working hard on projects that protect our seas and seagrass meadows. We thank everyone who has played a part in the Studland Bay eco-mooring project so far, and welcome anyone who wants to get involved and help us make a change for the better. Find out how you can support these efforts by visiting www.coastlinedeadline.co.uk.