Thirty five Antillean manatees have been killed this year in Belize. For experts, that number is alarming especially since the Antillean manatee is an endangered species. But there is a plan to reduce the number of manatee deaths. A two day workshop is underway at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute to update and revise the Manatee Recovery Plan, which was first created in 1998. The Antillean manatees are facing new threats and CEO, Chantel Clarke-Samuels says that the manatee population in Belize is at a critical point whereby strategies need to be priority in order to deal with the threats.

Chantel Clarke-Samuels, CEO

“Some of the threats include Coastal Development, pollution and one of the larger ones collisions with water craft as well as poaching and so what is important with what we are doing over the next two days is to bring together the key partners and stake holders that have a vested interest in manatee conservation to hash out all the details, look at our work plans, address what strategies worked and prioritize new strategies and look at the short comings in management.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love News

“What are some of the strategies that have been suggested so far to deal with the problems?”

Chantel Clarke-Samuels, CEO

“We definitely know that one key strategy to address is looking at areas for the protection of the habitat for manatees. A lot of the unfortunate incidents that is occurring within the Haulover and Belize River mouth areas. We also need to step up efforts in terms of compliance monitoring, surveillance monitoring and enforcement so those are two of the things we will prioritize today. There are ongoing efforts in terms of training, education, research, awareness and outreach that we want to maintain but the prior two that I mentioned enforcement and protection of the habitat that will be important. I also want to mention that we need to look at the legislative framework under which manatees are protected which is the wildlife protection act and forthcoming revisions to that act will definitely help with the work that we want to do today.”

Two consultants and experts are leading the consultation process. One of them is Alex Ortega, who for the two days will be serving as technical advisor and facilitator to the process.

Alex Ortega, Facilitator

“I’ve been involved in manatee conservation for about twenty years and also involved in different conservation planning initiatives in Mexico and the Caribbean region so my expertise is about planning processes and facilitating this conservation evaluation policy development process. As many endangered species around the world manatee conservation is a very complex issue it has to deal with illegal hunting, developing of the coast, with logging in the mountains so we try to identify among all the other workshop participants the main issues and the main threats and establish very clear and concise strategic planning for the next five years.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love News

“Now in terms of that plan what will be the most effective way to deal with the issue?”

Alex Ortega, Facilitator

“Well we need to tackle the main threatening processes through different strategies. We need to work with people, law enforcements, protected areas, coastal zone development as well so it’s not a single recipe we have to develop different strategies and also work with different stake holders.”

The initiative has the support of the Oak Foundation.

LOVEFM