On Thursday the fisheries department was called out to Seine Byte Village on the Placencia peninsula to see a manatee that had been butchered.

It's concerning to see this protected species slaughtered with such impunity but as Monica Bodden found out, there are wider attending issues:

Monica Bodden, Reporting
This was the area - located in Seine Bite Village - were law enforcement officers caught up with four fishermen who were carrying 38 lbs. of manatee meat.

Jamal Galves -Manatee Associates
"On Thursday the 29th of September we have gotten a report about 4 guys that have captured a manatee in Seine Bight and before the police and southern environmental association could have reached there they had already killed the manatee. The police from Placencia actually captured the guys with the meat that they were about to sell and 4 of them were arrested but one of them were charge for crime."

This net lying on the beachfront of the village - is believed to have been used to capture the creature. It was a sub adult - about four years old. By the time officials caught up with the men, the animal had already been slaughtered. For many - a crime such as this - should have stricter penalties.

Jamal Galves -Manatee Associates
"It was surprising to me that he only got fined $200 for such a case being that manatees are endangered and they are protected by the wild life protection act #4 and these animals should not be harassed, tampered, killed or attempted to be killed in any kind of way. Penalties vary from $500 - $1000 or imprisonment so it was kind of shocking to me that such thing could have happen."

This is the second reported case for this year of slaughtered manatees. The first was in August in the same village.

Jamal Galves -Manatee Associates
"It's an animal that tourist come from all over the world to see and tourism is one of Belize's income. We need to have stiffer penalties for such crime because that could be dome again and for year we have been chasing people that were poaching and hunting manatees and finally we have gotten, we have expected more out of it; make an example for other who want to or intent to do such activities would think twice next time."

And even though Belize is known to have the largest breeding population of Antillean manatees in Central America- studies show there are some concerns about these protected mammals.

Jamal Galves -Manatee Associates
"What worries me even more is that our colleagues; US Geological Survey in Florida has just carried out a research to compare the Belize manatee with the Florida manatee; Florida and Belize manatee are sub-species of the Antillean manatee and they have found out that those animals are not related at all, they are two different sub-species and we also found out that Belize genetic diversity in manatees are very low that its textbook to bottleneck endangered species and such low diversity are very easy to decrease or become extinct."

The Manatee Project of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute began in August of 1996. The project focuses on research, management and education of the endangered Antillean manatee in Belize.

Channel 7