Record number of manatees killed by boating accidents in 2017

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

The year 2017 proved deadly for manatees. Forty of the endangered animals met violent deaths after boats crashed into them when the creatures surfaced for air.

The numbers put a damper on the effort that Sea to Shore has been leading to promote the importance of protecting the creatures and ensuring their existence into the next generation. Sea to Shore just wrapped up 2017 holding a fundraising event that seeks to keep educational workshops and campaigns running with people who operate in the areas where manatees are known to harbour and mate.

Already, 2018 seems to be a spill-over of the numbers from last year. On January second, a manatee was found dead and another seriously injured. The dead animal was killed in the Dolphin Park area, Buttonwood Bay, by the propellers of a boat that crashed into it, while the search to rescue the second marine mammal was racing against time to save its life. The search proved fruitless and the fear is that the collision with that boat may have killed both animals.

The smaller of the two manatees, which was the injured one, was believed to have been around five years old. It was reportedly floating after having suffered severe injuries to its internal organs. The larger, older one which was already dead had suffered huge, deep lacerations all the way to the bone, believed to have been caused when a dive boat ran over it as it surfaced to breathe.

Jamal Galvez, program coordinator and manatee researcher at Sea to Shore Alliance, has said that while Belize has the largest population of manatees in the world, we have to ensure that we protect them. He said that the hit was so severe on the larger animal that the boat operator who hit the animal could not have continued on without know that he had hit the animal and should have reported it so that the animals could have been rescued.

The manatee researcher appeals to boat captains and tour guides to exercise caution and adhere to the 5-mile-per-hour speed limit in the “No Wake” zones where manatees are known to congregate along the shoreline near the Belize City harbour and near the mouth of the Haulover Bridge where the sea meets the river. If people look out for them and navigate the waters slowly, he said, the accidents would not be so frequent and accidents that happen would not result in such severe injuries.

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