By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
Four endangered Antillean Manatees were killed in just two days this week when boats traversing in their natural habitats ran over them.
The rise in manatee deaths has prompted Jamal Galves, manatee researcher with the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, to appeal with boaters and the Belize Port Authority to address the issue of speeding in no wake zones. “All of these incidents occurred in no wake zones, where boaters are required by law to reduce their speed. The cases are all just signs of neglect,” Galves said, “and they could have been avoided if they had just slowed down.”
Belize has the largest population of endangered Antillean Manatees in the world; however with the recent deaths, that population is now less than 1000. “Efforts are needed by all Belizeans in order to reduce the amount of injuries and deaths due to collisions. I’m asking boaters to respect the law and the Belize Port Authority to do what they can to enforce it”, Galves said.
Galves added that there was another manatee injured at a marina in the Sittee River. CZMAI personnel treated the manatee on site but could not transport it to the rehabilitation center, because they didn’t have adequate transportation. The injured manatee was released but is under constant observation by the CZMAI.
In 2013, the CZMAI held a sensitization workshop for 80 tour operators on how to deal with manatees in the wild. The institute also launched a “protect the manatees” advertising campaign, to sensitize the general public on approaching manatees in the wild.
The CZMAI’s manatee project began in 2006 with the purpose of research, managing and educating the public on the Antillean Manatee. The institute’s data show that from 2005-2010 manatee deaths went up from seven to 19.