In the last decade, we've seen the deaths of about 25 manatees per year - primarily as a result of boat strikes. It's a pattern that scientists have been observing for the last 23 years, and finally, there's a study that shows conclusively that our beloved Antillean Manatees are in grave danger.

Belize has the last Antillean Manatee stronghold in this region and this study, penned by our own "Manatee Man," Jamal Galvez, warns that if we are not careful, our manatee population can end up like the Floridian manatees, which are on the endangered list.

Today we spoke with Galvez, who explained that in Belize, manatees have gone from being hunted for their meat to being chopped up by propellers, primarily in high tourism areas:

Jamal Galvez - Manatee Man
"The article comprises of 23 years of manatee stranding data, it includes dead or alive manatees, injured or orphaned that we've collected across the entire country. This is a large effort from the Belize Marine Mammal Stranding Network which includes partners from the entire country, which is under the Belize Fisheries Department. So for years, we've been talking about manatee stranded and injuries causing them. We've alluded to the fact that boats have been a problem but now we have the scientific research that show that boat is the number one threat to manatees, like it is in Florida, it is now in Belize and it's a huge concern as it relates now to the survival of the species into the future. Historically manatees in Belize have been classified in Belize due to hunting pressures. We know that people use to poach and hunt manatees for their meat and bones, food. It is sadly still occurring in some places, particularly in remote places in Belize but it's not as much as it used to be. That is as a result of the educational awareness and the policies and regulations that have been put in place, which I applaud each individual that have been involved with it. Since 2010, we've seen a consistent increase in manatee deaths as a result of watercraft collision and it keeps just going up more and more. It is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. There is a direct correlation between manatee death rates and tourism and now there is scientific data to support that argument, it's not just a hypothesis now, it has been proven that the studies have shown that as tourism numbers go up, manatee death rates tend to follow and as tourism nose dive, manatee death rates tend to do the same as we've seen as it relates to the COVID 19 impact. There is a direct correlation particularly in the Belize City area where we know that tourism activities are high in relation to marine and boating activities and this brings about a huge concern as we debate and quarrel among each other, which tourism port is more valuable than the other and the proposal of three cruise ship ports. Right now, manatees are not safe in the Belize City area and then we're considering three cruise ship ports that can actually devastate the population and put it to extinction."

He also mentioned that since 2010, manatee deaths by boat strikes have more than doubled.

Channel 7