Rare dugong sighting in southern NSW

A dugong has made an unusual appearance in the cool waters of Merimbula, on the NSW Far South Coast.
By Gemma Chilton November 25, 2015 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

A DUGONG HAS been spotted well outside its usual range in the waters of Merimbula in southern New South Wales – much to the surprise and delight of locals.

The dugong was initially spotted by local resident Beth Richards on 18 November in Merimbula Lake, a coastal lagoon about 460km south of Sydney. Locals and tourists have made several further sightings over the past week. 

The core habitat for dugongs in Australia is in the tropics and sub-tropics, from Shark Bay in Western Australia around to Moreton Bay in Queensland. However, while sightings of dugongs this far outside of their usual range is rare, it isn’t unheard of, says Amanda Hodgson, an expert in dugong behaviour at Murdoch University in WA.

rare dugong sighting Merimbula

Credit: Beth Richards

“Dugongs can travel hundreds of kilometres and are known to occasionally visit NSW coastal waters,” Amanda said. “There are actually some records (although very few) of dugongs around Merimbula – the lake there has seagrass, so there is likely some forage for this particular animal.”

Amanda added that while we do not yet know why individual dugongs occasionally head so far south, “we do know they headed a long way to get there and may travel a long way back, so it’s great to hear people are respecting this animal and not causing it distress or interrupting its feeding,” she said.

Anthony Daly, the manager at Merimbula Aquarium, told Merimbula News Weekly – where the sighting was originally reported – that it was the first time he had heard of a dugong being sighted in the area in 25 years.