Ameliorating threats to the manatee in the heart of Belize

Jamal Galves

Belize has the largest surviving population of the endangered Antillean manatee. These herbivorous mammals, like dolphins, many fish species and even humans depend on the lower Belize River as a medium for migration and as a source of freshwater. Within the Belize River tributary the occurrence of manatee mortality directly related to watercraft collisions is very high. These events threaten to reduce the population of the endangered species. This project aims to ameliorate the threats to the endangered manatee population within the Belize River mouth through strengthening inter-agency collaboration, policy development and public awareness activities. A comprehensive threat assessment will be conducted within the Belize River mouth area in order to identify manatee migration routes most vulnerable to high speed watercrafts and to establish appropriate speed zones. Key stakeholder agencies and local communities will also be engaged through effective education campaigns in order to garner support for the development and implementation of a manatee conservation and management strategy. It is envisioned that the net outcomes of this project will be increased protection of manatees, reduced mortality resulting from boat strikes, and improved management of the area by all stakeholders with a vested interested in the perpetuation of the endangered species.