By Douglas Koran, VESS Dugongs and Seagrass Project Scientist

Last week from 13th to 16th March 2017, 2 members of the VESS team travelled to Abu Dhabi to take part in the third Meeting of Signatories (MOS3) for the Dugong Memorandum of understanding (Dugong MOU) on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their range. The meeting was followed by a 2-day technical workshop. It was long flight away from home in a totally different time zones (7 hours behind Vanuatu time) and that become a problem for Vanuatu participants when jet lag hit around midday every day in the conference!!

Jayven ham from the Vanuatu Fisheries Department was the Vanuatu government’s representative at MOS3. Since VESS is the implementing partner of the GEF- Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project we were invited to be observers at the MoS3 meeting. I, Douglas Koran, and Christina Shaw heard the members of Dugong Signatory countries and the CMS dugong MoU Secretariat, report and review their action plans, implementation activities, conservation initiatives, programme of work, and so forth. VESS was chosen to give a keynote presentation on the GEF Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project as a catalyst for community change. Dr Christina Shaw Showcased Vanuatu… (Well not really but showcased the dugong side of Vanuatu) and our work to date on the project.

The conference brought along the chance to meet with other scientists and project partners working in many other countries, to meet and chat about our different projects. We also meet with the hardworking coordinators that coordinate the GEF-funded Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project, the inspiring Scientists of dugong and Seagrass and other experts of different fields and coming from different backgrounds. But were all after the same goal: to promote conservation of dugong and seagrass throughout their range.

But it wasn’t all work; we had a chance one afternoon to go and visit the dunes, organised by the project coordinators. It was fun riding in the dunes, or more like sliding in the dunes, in a car, spending the evening visiting a camel farm with the chance to ride a camel and experiencing life in the desert. It was fun and interesting to learn about a totally different culture. The evening ended with a dinner of some traditional dishes from the Emirates while watching traditional belly dance to traditional Arabic music and a men’s traditional dance with sticks.

The last two days of the meeting (15th & 16th March 2017) was committed to a technical workshop organised by a dugong technical group to provide delegates with information and training to enhance capabilities for dugong and seagrass conservation. Speakers included big environmental funding agencies giving advice on fund raising, international Environment Organisations, specialised people from dugong research, seagrass scientists, conservationist and specialists in community and social aspects of conservation and so on. On the last day there was interactive session working with a toolkit prepared by the technical group that offer hands-on instruction with experts on how to use the Dugong and Seagrass Research Toolkit and to apply it to local situations. It was Tumas Nomo… Gain and learn a lot from the Conference.

A few more photos from Abu Dhabi and the desert