Boat strikes a growing cause of Belize manatee deaths

As boat traffic increases, it poses a greater threat

The endangered Antillean manatee faces a growing threat from boat strikes in Belize, according to a new study that raises concerns about the survival of what had been considered a relatively healthy population.

Belize hosts a population of around 1,000 Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus). With the growth of tourism in recent decades, Belize has seen a substantial increase in boat traffic, making boat strikes a growing cause of manatee death and injury.

The study, published in Endangered Species Research, used 25 years of data to quantify the impacts of increasing boat traffic on the manatee population.

“This work has been shared with policymakers in Belize and will contribute directly to conservation planning, including protecting key areas for manatees such as the Belize River Mouth and the Placencia Lagoon,” said first author Celeshia Guy Galves, now at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute in Belize.

Header Image: Antillean manatees near Caye Caulker Island, Belize. Credit: T. Yiftach