REPORT #124 Nov 1999
NGO "TIDE" of Punta Gorda, the remote Toledo District of Belize, says HUNTED MANATEES WILL BECOME EXTINCT IN THEIR AREA very soon, DUE TO LACK OF MOVEMENT BY BELMOPAN MINISTER AND THE BELMOPAN BUREAUCRACY!


Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Posted on the BzCulture List by Lisa Alamilla

(If this was BTL legislative protectionism, legislation would be passed in two weeks!) But this is the ignored and forgotten Toledo District! Is this political cynical doublespeak, laziness, or incompetence from the rulers in Belmopan? What would you guess?)

Subject: Fw: Senseless Killings!
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 14:20:18 -0500

Subject: Senseless Killings!
It was Columbus day yesterday! We were having a "seaside bashment" which meant that the Garifuna Drums were loud and people were dancing. During this "bashment", Masas and Sindawg touched me on my shoulder and said "you got to go catch the manatee killers". These were two of the local fishermen who had stopped in to inform me of the remains of three slaughtered manatees. It was late in the evening, which ment that going out at that time would not have been very productive.

This morning at the crack of dawn, TIDE personnel were on the waters with the two local fishermen. As we approached the Deep River area, we could see the Vulchures feasting. As we got closer to a cleared area in the mangrove we could smell the stench;there it was, the remains of three brutally slaughtered manatees. Two adults and one calf. The prime meats were cut off and the remains were left for the vultures.

I find this to be very sad and disturbing, since just last week we in Belize we were celebrating Manatee Week. Some of us were giving ourselves praises for the good work we are doing to protect the endangerd specie while at the same time poachers were having a ball.

For years now we have been trying to curb or reduce the amount of manatees that are being poached in this area. The poachers always seem to have one up on us. Early this year, we had regular patrols but due to budget constraints, we had to cut back on the number of patrols. The poachers who more than likely are illegal fishermen from across the border capitalized on these moments. It is a shame that during these times manatees are still being poached. I have said in the past and will say again,'no one in Guatemala or Belize will go hungry if they do not eat manatee meat'. Killing manatees is an easy way to make a quick buck. These very docile creatures are slow and has lots of meat and can be sold easily on the open market in Livingston and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. We definitely need to do more to try and stop these senseless killings of our manatees.

Almost all the killings have taken place in the 'Proposed Port Honduras Marine Reserve'. TIDE, for years have been lobbying for the area to be declared. So far, TIDE has held community consultations; has written the management plan; have show case the area to Technical people from the Fisheries Department, Coastal Zone Management Authority & Institute, and members of the Fisheries Advisory Board all of whom has recommended that the area be declared but up until now the area has not been declared. It is a rather large area and the Fisheries Department alone cannot patrol the area. Thanks to the people at the Orvis Flyfishing Company, Proarca Costas and others who have provided money for fuel so that we could do regular patrols. If we were not out there on a regular basis, maybe by now the manatees in this area would have suffered the same fate as the Sawfish which is now extinct in this area.

If anyone out there can urge the Minister to declare the area protected, we urge them to do so. The Minister has said publicly that he is ready to declare the area but so far has not done so. If the area is declared, we would be able to tap into other sources for fuel money so that we can continue the patrols. If this does not happen, I could almost say that within the next few years, manatees will be extinct in this area. The Minister of Fisheries email is mafpaeu@btl.net or species@btl.net

Wil Maheia
TIDE

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