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ESR 51:103-113 (2023)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01247

Increasing mortality of Endangered Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus due to watercraft collisions in Belize

Celeshia Guy Galves1,2,*, Nicole Auil Gomez3, Jamal Galves1,2, Kelly M. Zilliacus4, Donald A. Croll4, A. Marm Kilpatrick4,*

1Coastal Science and Policy Program, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
2Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute Belize, Belmopan City, Belize
3Wildlife Conservation Society, Belize City, Belize
4Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
*Corresponding authors: ,
  

ABSTRACT: Belize maintains the largest proportion of the Endangered Antillean manatee Trichechus manatus manatus population in its range, but tourism and boat traffic have increased substantially over the past 3 decades. We utilized 25 yr of Belize Antillean manatee stranding data (1995-2019), 6 aerial surveys (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2014), and 2 decades of boat registration data to examine: (1) spatial patterns in stranding incidence and risk of watercraft collision; (2) temporal patterns in strandings and registered watercraft; and (3) the relationship between manatee strandings attributed to watercraft collision and watercraft numbers. The number of watercraft collision strandings increased significantly over time, from 1-4 yr-1 in the late 1990s and early 2000s to 10-17 yr-1 in the late 2010s. The per manatee risk of watercraft collision stranding increased across space and time with the number of registered boats. Strandings were greater in areas of high boat traffic, high human population density, and mangrove habitats, particularly in Belize City and Placencia. These results highlight the need to reduce the threat of watercraft collisions to conserve this Endangered subspecies in Belize. Conservation efforts should focus on reducing the number of boats and their speed within zones of high manatee use to reduce mortality due to boat collisions, including establishing additional non-motorized vessel areas, restricted access, and reduced speed zones.


KEY WORDS: Antillean manatee · Belize · Stranding · Watercraft collision · Mortality · Aerial survey


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Cite this article as: Galves CG, Gomez NA, Galves J, Zilliacus KM, Croll DA, Kilpatrick AM (2023) Increasing mortality of Endangered Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus due to watercraft collisions in Belize. Endang Species Res 51:103-113. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01247

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