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Jun 15, 2012

Years of manatee research in Belize and Cuba

While the streets and highways are populated with SUV’s and pose a minimal risk for pedestrians, our coastal waters also hold dangers for one large mammal.  Manatees face a distinct threat from mariners whose boats either injure or kill them in the areas that they live.  That is why the Sea to Shore Alliance’s conservation work in Belize has been paramount in the survival of the species. News Five caught up with doctor James Powell, the Executive Director of Sea to Shore Alliance, who was giving a presentation at the Coastal Zone Management and Institute about the organization’s ongoing manatee research in Belize and Cuba.

 

Dr. James Powell, Executive Director, Sea to Shore Alliance

James Powell

“Today, I am giving a presentation about the work that we’ve been doing here in Belize and also for interest and comparison the work we have been doing in Cuba. In fact, we have some Cuban biologists here working in Belize on this trip because we’ll use it as a training and learning opportunity. In Belize we have had some of the longest term manatee research going on in the Caribbean so it is fabulous place for people to learn about manatee; to do research on them and what needs to be done to protect them.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“Is there anything in particular that the public would want to be aware of that you are giving in this presentation?”

 

Dr. James Powell

“Yes. One of the main reasons we’re giving this presentation is that once upon a time, manatees were hunted, but we’ve learned from some of the research that we are doing that more and more manatees are being killed by boats; just like they are in Florida. So one of the purposes of our work here is to find out where and why we are getting more and more dead manatees killed by boats and how much are being injured by getting hit by boats.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“Do we have any numbers on your research so far of how many have been killed or hit by boats?”

 

Dr. James Powell

“This year I think there have been eight manatees that have been killed and last year there were about nineteen manatees killed. And what we are seeing is—and we have been doing this work for almost fifteen years—is that when we catch them and we radio tag them, we are finding more and more of them with boat scars; where they have been hit.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“Speaking of tagging, you intended to do some catch and release earlier today; what can you tell us about that?”

 

Dr. James Powell

“Yeah exactly right catch and release but really big. We catch the manatees and we do health assessment son them just like you would go to the doctors. We collect blood and take measurements and then we put satellite tags on them so that we can tract their movements. And the reason we do this is not only just to learn about manatees and their general biology, but also to find out where their most important habitats are and how much time they spend in some places which we may be able to provide with the tags. But if they only spend a part of their time there and then go somewhere else and then we are only protecting one place. So the tag allows us to know where they stay and when.”

 

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