Sea cows, a large marine mammal, are rapidly disappearing from seas of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu due to pollution, habitat degradation and unscientific fishing, says Environment Ministry.
Its population in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is, however, stable.
The sea cows, scientifically known as dugong, is classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its population world is around 85,000 now, marking a 30 per cent drop in the last six decades.
"The Government of India has supported the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, Gujarat to assess the populations of dugong using interview based survey in 2009 and found that the number of dugong has declined in its all ranges," says a Ministry document.
According to a Ministry official, primary analysis of the survey carried out by WII (Wildlife Institute of India) in 2012-13 has also confirmed that dugong population in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is declining due to fishing activities, pollution and habitat degradation.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's oldest and largest global environmental organisation, says that applying the correct penalties for illegal fishing is crucial for reducing the entanglement of dugongs in gill nets - one of the major threats to this shy species.
Dugong has been identified as one of the 16 selected species for initiating recovery programmes in their respective habitats under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes of "Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats", says the Ministry.
Dugongs are included in Schedule-I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which affords it the highest degree of protection.