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Jan 12, 2018

Environmentalists Hit the Waters to Monitor Manatees

In 2017 alone, up to forty manatees were reported killed as a result of collisions with boats. And only twelve days into the New Year, three manatees have already been killed. It is cause for concern and Sea to Shore Alliance, which champions the conservation and protection of the sea cows, is dead set on monitoring boaters who are in violation of maritime regulations. Today, the donation of a boat from the Meso-American Fund, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust and others will allow for greater patrols in no wake zones along the coast of Belize City. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Sea to Shore Alliance, better known as the organization that works on manatee conservation in Belize, was today the recipient of a boat.  It was donated by the Meso-American Reef Fund, in collaboration with the Protected Areas Conservation Trust. The donation, valued at approximately thirty-thousand Belize dollars, will allow for the organization to further monitor boaters who do not adhere to no wake zones and who in the past have struck and killed manatees.

 

Angeline Valentine-Enriquez

Angeline Valentine-Enriquez, Project Officer, MAR Fund

“Manatees have been facing quite a bit of challenge over the years and I think we are all very familiar with those challenges due to the work of Sea to Shore Alliance. We have had quite a bit of water craft collisions which has impacted them severely.  What this vessel helps to do is to help Sea to Shore to continue its efforts in manatee conservation and protection. It provides them the opportunity to continue their education, their monitoring and their outreach programs. It gives them an opportunity to continue to collaborate with key agencies and partners.”

 

Acting Associate Director for Grants at PACT, Darrel Audinett, says that there was no hesitation to support Sea to Shore Alliance when the request came in for an outboard engine.

 

Darrel Audinett

Darrel Audinett, Acting Associate Director for Grants, PACT

“It wasn’t a matter of if we would be able to support, it was a matter of how much we could support. And so what we had received was a request for thirteen thousand Belize dollars and that was a request coming from Sea to Shore that they had wanted to actually purchase the engine because they had already received funding from other sources, MAR Fund in particular, for the vessel. And so we thought of it as an opportunity where we could contribute to something greater than just an initiative from PACT itself.”

 

Over the last five years, the country has lost well over a hundred manatees from an estimated population of just about a thousand; forty of those were in 2017 alone and since the start of the year, Jamal Galvez says that three have already been killed.

 

Jamal Galvez, Sea to Shore Alliance

“Three already and we are not even clear half way through the month for the start of the year. There is definitely need for concern. We are asking boaters to continue to be vigilant. We want them to know that we are going to be out there, patrolling, enforcing, talking to them, dealing with the situation because this is what needs to be done for our manatee population to stay stable. This initiative requires support from many different aspects; many different wants of life and it will require the cooperation of boaters. We’ve tried in many different ways; we held tour guide workshops, we continue to reach out to them in many different ways. So this initiative is going to be one along with Port Authority; they have the mandate to enforce the maritime regulations.”

 

Partnering with Sea to Shore Alliance once again this year is UNO, providing a monthly supply of fuel for the boats used to carry out the organizations patrols and monitoring. But a warning to boaters, if not in compliance, you will be prosecuted. That’s where the Port Authority comes in; and for years now, they have been working with the organization to crack down on speeding in no wake zones.

 

Michael Jenkins

Michael Jenkins, Safety and Security Manager, Port Authority

“There are fines for violators of vessels moving too fast within a no wake zone, which in the river mouth where we see most of the manatees located is a no wake area. It is a slow proceeding area for vessels; we try to regulate the area and now with Sea to Shore Alliance having another vessel, we are very happy to have this partnership with them to have another asset to use to patrol the area and make sure that people adhere to the rules.  Once at court, there is a monetary fine and also they can be jailed. So it is a serious offense and we take it very seriously.”

 

According to MAR Fund Project Officer, Angeline Valentine-Enriquez, the donation is a part of a bigger project that will focus on key hotspots where manatees are heavily impacted by water collisions. Those areas are particularly along the coast of Belize City, the Belize River Mouth and Placencia. Duane Moody for News Five.

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