Boats endangering manatees in Belize

The following item is reproduced in The Violence of Development website from ENCA 83 (Newsletter of the Environmental Network for Central America).

Manatees are often referred to as sea cows and are gentle, curious and unthreatening mammals with a face like that of a walrus. In South-East Asia they are called dugongs. There are several species of manatees. The sub-species that lives in coastal inlets around Belize is the Antillean manatee, and according to the United Nations and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Antillean manatees are in severe danger of extinction and are therefore a protected species.

Belize has the largest population of Antillean manatees in the world due to its coastline providing large amounts of plant life, especially seagrass, on which they live. The coastline is indented with inlets and tributaries providing the manatees with very warm water, ample food and many mangrove forests.

Belize has established several wildlife sanctuaries in order to protect manatees and other marine life, including Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, Southern Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary, Bacalar Chico National Park and South Water Caye Marine Reserve.

Although not a protected area, Placencia Lagoon is one of the best places to see manatees. Unfortunately, during September this year there were three reported deaths of manatees in the Placencia Lagoon area. It appeared that the three deaths were caused by boat strikes.

August to October is the most active period for manatee movement around the lagoon, but it is also a period of activity of tourist boats. The Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) has issued a call for boat drivers to look out specifically for manatees. But the CRC added that the manatees are also threatened by pollution and loss of habitat as well as collision with boats. They also become entangled with fishing nets.

The CRC was established in 2016 and aims to preserve crocodiles and other animals and their environments in Central America in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of biodiversity in the region.


  • Rubén Morales Iglesias, 30.09.21, ‘Crocodile Research Coalition calls for boat drivers in Placencia Lagoon to look out for manatees’, Breaking Belize News.
  • Laru Beya Resort website, ‘Belize Manatees’,
  • Crocodile Research Coalition website,