Manatee Slaughter?Yesterday, Jamal Galvez along with a Port Authority Officer and an Oceana representative were patrolling the Belize river when they stumbled upon four dead manatees in the river between Manatee Lookout and the airport. We spoke to Galvez about it and he said in his many years of experience he has never seen so many dead manatees in the same spot.
Jamal Galvez, Sea to Shore Alliance Program Coordinator
"It was very shocking to see that many manatees. I have seen more than one manatees die in the country but in different locations. I have never seen that quantity in one day. It was very shocking and we patrol that river on a weekly basis. It was very surprising to me that it did not come to our attention. Like I mentioned there is a lot of times when these manatees get caught in the mangroves and just not visible to the eyes."
"It is definitely needed for concern, while we were searching and carrying out patrols we actually ran into some gillnets that were set in the river. That is quite alarming because by the fisheries standards and regulations we all know it is illegal to set nets in rivers near river mouths and anywhere close to shorelines especially in a river area that is as heavily traversed as the Belize River, not only to manatees but to many different species of fish. The nets were not deployed but you could see it is probably an operation where they pull the nets in the daytime and put it back out in the evening time."
Sahar Vasquez, reporter
"The gillnets were not found on the manatees though, they were just found in the area?"
"They were not found on the manatees at all. They were found it the same here. I am not alluding that the gill nets may have killed that manatees. I know that boats traverse that area heavily. It could have still been a factor but these animals are too decomposed to say so and I would not want to speculate but the fact that they are in the area when they are not supposed to be in the area definitely proposes a great concern to me."
Three of the manatees were female while one was a male. Their carcasses were in an advanced state of decomposition. Galvez says they will be increasing their patrols and working along with Fisheries to crack down on the use of gillnets in prohibited areas.