Police caught a group of fishermen slaughtering a dugong on a beach on the southern tourist destination of Phu Quoc Island on Monday.
Tipped off by island residents that the 100 kilogram marine mammal was being killed by five fishermen, border police rushed to the beach, only to find the animal already dead.
Police said fishermen claimed the dugong, also known as a sea cow, was exhausted by being caught in a fishing net. But instead of reporting the catch to environmental authorities, the fishermen killed it.
They later told authorities they were unaware it was illegal to kill the sea creature, which they planned to eat.
Nguyen Hong Cuong, the director of the Phu Quoc Sea Protection Area, said at least five dugongs had been found dead on the island’s beaches in the past few years.
In Vietnam, dugongs are found in waters off Con Dao Island in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang Province.
The dugong, protected in Vietnam, is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.