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Killing of dugongs:

Stern action against two fishermen

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratna has asked Ministry officials to take stern action against the two fishermen arrested from Mannar on the charges of killing two dugongs.

The fishermen have been detained. They have reportedly killed them using dynamite, which is illegal under the Fisheries Act.

Meanwhile, a post mortem examination will be held on the two marine mammals on Tuesday by National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) scientists and the National Zoological Gardens.

NARA Chairman Dr Hiran Jayawardena yesterday told the Daily News they will open the carcasses of the dugongs for public display after the post mortem.

NARA has taken action to bring the carcasses to Colombo and preserve the creatures as museum specimens for future generations. As an environmental friendly people, all the Sri Lankans have the responsibility to protect those innocent animals and protest against the massacre of sea cows, he said.

The two carcasses are currently kept in a cool room at Ceylon Fisheries Corporation in Colombo. Minister Senaratna on Friday visited the Corporation to inspect them.

”These are endangered marine mammals protected by international and local law,” he said. “One hardly gets to see them.”

The dugongs, also known as sea cows and mudu ura are harmless marine mammals that feed on sea grass.

The two killed were fully grown dugongs, a female and a male.

The female weighs about 545 kilos and the male 480 kilos.

NARA Chairman Dr Jayawardena said the female mammal was either nursing or carrying a baby. The Post mortem on Tuesday will reveal that, he said.

Asked if these fish were caught by fishermen out of stupidity, Dr Jayawardena said there were no signs of injury to the mammals for obvious reason that they were killed by dynamiting , which is an illegal type of fishing.

Besides both mammals weigh around 1000 kilos and we have reports that these mammals are killed in these areas for meat.

”This is illicit meat worth about Rs 1 million,” he said and added that they have been asked by Minister Senaratna to conduct a full investigation into the matter with orders to take stern action against those kill fish using explosives,” he said.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, Dugongs are vulnerable and endangered globally. They have been protected by the Fauna & Flora protection ordinance Act No 1, 1970 for several decades in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is also a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild fauna and flora.

Dugongs belong to Dugongidae family and it is the only living species of that family in the world. They grow up to 2.4-3m in length and weigh between 230-500 kgs.

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