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Manatee Conservation Workshop

The Antillean manatee found in Belize is listed as an endangered species with approximately one thousand of these mammals existing in the country. There have been several reports of manatees dying in boat collisions.  In light of this, several efforts have been made to save this endangered species. Today, there was a manatee conservation workshop held for Tour Guides and Boat Captains. Love news spoke with Eloim Ellis, the Vice President of Friends of Swallow Caye, who said the workshop is being held to create awareness.

Eloim Ellis – Vice President of Friends of Swallow Caye: “This workshop today is being held to create awareness for tour guides and boat captains in Belize. We are trying to create awareness about the importance of manatees in Belize, pretty much that is what we are doing here today. Recently more and more incidents have been occurring in Belize where we have noticed that the manatees are dying because they have been grazed, for example by the boats, so this workshop is to actually create awareness so that captains and guides are aware of currently what is happening in Belize. What we do know is that we have a population of about one thousand manatees in Belize. We want to ensure that these manatees are safe for the environment in which they play a very important role, also for the tourism sector because people visiting Belize are always interested in seeing these animals. It is very important to preserve them, to secure them, to ensure that we can continue to have them, not just for now but for future generations. They are also very important to our environment, to our ecosystem.”

Jamal Galves said that this workshop is being conducted in critical areas including Belize City, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, and Placencia due to the incident with manatee which have occurred in those areas.

Jamal Galves – the Program Coordinator of CLEARWATER: “Manatees are protected under the Wildlife Act which is a very broad act, a broad legislation. I think it needs to be more specific, especially when you are dealing with endangered species such as the Antilia Manatee.  I don’t feel that the current law provides the protection that is necessary for this animal to be protected hence the reason why it is still endangered today and it is very difficult for us to actually progress in making this species come off the endangered list because the legislation is very poor. It is not even close to what it needs to be to safeguard a species such as this one, however we try our best to work around what is there and we continue to lobby the government, we continue to seek assistance in the form of legislation to better protect the species because we can’t protect the species if there isn’t some legislation that would allow us to act within a certain way to ensure that we can do the things that we need to do to ensure that this animal’s survival in Belize is continued for decades to come.”

The workshop was hosted by Friends of Swallow Caye, in collaboration with CLEARWATER Marine Aquarium Research Institute, and it was held at Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority’s training room.