|Regional Management Plan for the West Indian Manatee, Trichechus manatus|
|CEP Technical Report No. 35 1995||All CEP Technical Reports|
III. SHORT AND LONG-TERM RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES
Achieving manatee conservation in the tropics is no easy task. The most difficult problem facing manatee conservation efforts in the Caribbean region is the need to reconcile the protection of species and the integrity of the habitat at the same time we protect the rights of the people using the same areas to survive. One aspect of this equation cannot be neglected in favor of the other; on the contrary, both must be taken into account. The Wider Caribbean is a puzzlework of developing nations, some undergoing civil wars, and populated by disadvantaged peoples at various levels of poverty and with high levels of population growth. The development of the region and its present and future generations depends on conservation, but in turn the latter will depend on how well its strategies serve the people. In an area of poor socio-economic conditions, manatee conservation is not likely to be a high priority. In addition tremendous economic and political pressure exists for the maintenance and expansion of fishing, logging, and coastal development activities, activities known to negatively impact manatees and their habitats. The great challenge is to unite socio-economic development and manatee conservation in a sustainable framework. This is likely to be a slow process, and will require a concerted effort from the various segments of the society. It will be necessary for Caribbean nations to commit to a long-term conservation goal, and start by enforcing protective measures, saving critical habitat, and educating its peoples.
The following paragraphs contain recommendations for short and long-term activities concerning the West Indian manatee in the Wider Caribbean region. Recommendations grouped in the category of "Priority Measures" for conservation, research, education, and law enforcement, should be implemented as immediately as possible. An annotated list of conservation measures to be implemented in a longer term is provided under "Conservation Measures". In the long run, these recommendations should allow the implementation and strengthening of a research, education and conservation programme designed to ensure the recovery and maintenance of manatees, and the protection of their habitats. However, they must be adopted as an integrated, multi-faceted programme, where the scientific findings and educational programmes provide support to the protective and legislative measures. General recommendations are followed by in-country specific activities being recommended for implementation in the short and long-term. These recommendations were identified in the course of reviewing the status of the manatee in the Wider Caribbean.
At the Sirenia Workshop held during the Sixth International Theriological Congress in Sydney, Australia, 7-9 July 1993, the Sirenia Specialist Group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission made some considerations about work with sirenians in areas where they have not been intensively studied. The group recommended primarily, the use of relatively inexpensive approaches of easy access to researchers in those countries to derive basic information, in light of the fact that good quality data is required to make adequate management decisions. At a later time, and once baseline data has been gathered, more sophisticated equipment may be used and techniques attempted (Reynolds 1993 in litt). A problem common to most countries in the region is that, despite existence of protective legislation, financial and personnel limitations often prevent adequate implementation. However, in addition to conservation programmes, effective legislative measures will be necessary to ensure the survival of manatees in the Caribbean. On the other hand, protection and enforcement of laws will not be achieved unless the public understands and support those measures. Programmes of environmental education are an integral portion of a conservation programme and should be immediately implemented in areas where manatees occur. The public at all levels must understand the immediate and long-term benefits of species and habitat conservation. By stimulating appreciation and pride on the species, it may be possible to induce the development of a conservation philosophy, and achieve the goal of resource preservation. By being a high-profile species, the manatee may function as a catalyst in bringing together interested governmental and non-governmental agencies to elaborate comprehensive conservation plans. Manatees may be instrumental as well in the establishment of sanctuaries and attainment of the overall goal of preservation of coastal ecosystems with all their associated species.
A. PRIORITY MEASURES
1. Assess manatee status and distribution
A country-wide qualitative assessment of manatee status and distribution along coastal areas is necessary in every manatee-range country to include review of available information and causes of death. This has been accomplished in some countries, however, in others, there is no recent data on the situation of the manatee. The process may be initiated by conducting a literature search and reviewing all the scientific (including anthropological and archaeological) and popular literature, and local newspapers. Gathering of this information, will allow for the preparation of a background report containing, but not limited to, sightings, mortality events, and life history observations. Interviews, carried out in several countries of the Caribbean with very positive results, provide fairly good insights on manatee distribution and trends (as well as the amount and type of mortality, including poaching) occurring each year. During this type of survey, the researcher may design questions to obtain information such as areas where manatees seem to occur more often, or for particular purposes (i.e., mating, resting) and at what times of the year. Interviews should be carefully designed to obtain the needed information without biasing the responses. Old manatee hunters, fishermen and local residents of coastal areas, are the most appropriate subjects for interview surveys. For this purpose, a standard questionnaire for interviewing should be developed. The examination of the distribution of seagrasses and other aquatic plants, along the coastline may provide clues to the distribution of manatees in some countries. On an opportunistic basis, boats or aircraft should be used when possible to verify manatee distribution and habitat.
2. Define guidelines for data collection/censusing
Most of the techniques involved in the recommended activities (e.g., carcass salvage programmes, aerial surveys, telemetry, genetic sampling) are costly and effort-intensive. To ensure that results will be comparable among different countries, it is recommended that techniques and computerized storage formats be standardized including biological data (measurements, blood sampling and other) from captive, captured or incidentally captured and released animals. Data that is collected for each type of survey can be analyzed and displayed using computer software known as a Geographic Information System (GIS). While GIS hardware, software and personnel costs are currently higher than many research and management programmes can afford, data that must be collected for GIS analyses should include precise location in an accepted co-ordinated system like latitude/longitude, date, time and a unique identification number for each event.
3. Provide protection to manatees and manatee habitat
3a. Improve manatee awareness among the peoples of the Wider Caribbean
It is fundamental to the success of the conservation efforts to educate the public at all levels about the plight of the manatee in the Wider Caribbean in order to enlist their support to the cause. Conservation efforts should be encouraged by developing a targeted and specific educational and public awareness programme (or supporting an existing one). It must be emphasized that manatees are an integral component of the native fauna, culture, and history, and are vulnerable to the hazards associated with development and human activities such as gill netting and hunting. By clarifying the reasons for laws restricting such activities, we tend to reduce the resistance offered by affected people. Communication means such as radio, tv, magazines, and newspapers are the most effective ways to incorporate the environmental dimension into the daily life of people. Children can receive conservation education in school, and have the information reinforced at home through televised lectures or the airing of available videos on manatees (e.g., from Save the Manatee Club in Florida) on local television. A public radio service announcement may broadcast a programme for public awareness, extensive to rural areas. The awareness programme might also include a widely distributed poster, illustrated leaflets and brochures, a slide show, and signs on the waterways. In certain areas, the church infrastructure may be used as well. The "creation-centered Theology" with its emphasis on ecology and responsible stewardship of the environment, is perfectly compatible and synergistic with efforts to protect manatees and other endangered species. Education, public awareness and community participation will all benefit from identifying progressive members of the clergy and influential laity and soliciting their help on these efforts at the local level. Special activities may be planned such as a manatee day during a local festival, or an adopt-a-manatee programme.
Despite conditions particular to each country in developing educational campaigns, a regional effort to find a common ground will be fruitful for all. Wider Caribbean countries, especially neighbours, must co-ordinate the production of educational materials (such as brochures, videos and posters) by sharing existing educational resources which will be a more cost-effective system. The Belize programme, with input from Save the Manatee Club in Florida, may be used as a model for public education programmes, in other countries of the region. Educational materials for the conservation programme need to be developed and produced in multi-lingual format: a) in English, Spanish, French and Dutch for application throughout the region, and ultimately b) in the local indian languages to allow maximum utilization in all countries. Funds spent on educational materials should be targeted on translation, adaptation, reprinting, and wider dissemination of existing materials in preference to developing wholly new materials, in the interest of minimizing duplication of efforts.
The design of the methodology and contents of the education and public awareness programmes, must be local in nature and according to the realities and needs of people to benefit from such programmes. It should also be designed to involve the local community at all levels. Environmental education programmes should focus on coastal regions inhabited by manatees where local communities interact with the animals. Materials developed should address particular audiences. A programme developed and distributed to the schools on the Caribbean coast should encourage children to learn more about manatees and observe them first hand. Adults should be encouraged to participate in selected scientific studies on manatees in their communities. It is of great importance in implementing regional programmes to prepare materials to be distributed to indigenous communities. In most places, there are usually only a small number of active manatee poachers, and environmental activities targeted at them might produce significant results; however, caution must be exercised not to stimulate interest in a potential product. In the most impoverished areas in particular, it is important to provide not only penalties for poaching but also viable economic alternatives. Specific measures to raise the standard of living should be implemented to the point where poaching is no longer necessary for survival, and enforcement efforts are accepted by the people and not seen as oppression for purposes that do not benefit the local population. Fishermen should be educated not to kill manatees and to release them alive from nets.
The potential of using manatees and their habitats as ecotourism attractions, and the benefits it might incur to the local economy and people knowledgeable on manatees may be invoked as a stimulus for hunters to side with conservation. Tourist-related jobs may also include food and lodging, transportation, guides, services, arts and crafts. The manatee-based tourist industry in Florida may serve as an example of what may occur in certain areas of the region. The programme should also apply to national and local law enforcement officers so that they understand the protection laws and the need for their enforcement. The importance of their task may be restated at law enforcement workshops and training sessions. Education programmes must also reach local authorities, managers, and policy-makers, instrumental in getting the laws approved and enforced, and providing funds necessary for investigation and regulatory activities.
Manatee life is intimately connected with the lives of coastal inhabitants. Ecological, social and economic aspects are intertwined and influence the biological work. It will be useful to develop research programmes about the relationships between traditional as well as modern communities in protected areas, and assemble information on the traditional significance of manatees in relation to the communities' needs, to obtain the complete picture of manatees' situation in the Wider Caribbean.
3b. Create protected areas and enforce relevant laws
Greater protection should be granted to manatees, both in law and in practice. The manatee must be maintained as a protected species as currently provided by laws of most Wider Caribbean countries. Countries of the Wider Caribbean need to ratify or accede the SPAW Protocol and the CITES Convention if they have not done so. In countries where legal protection is not guaranteed, efforts should be made to ensure manatee a protected status. Enforcement of existing laws is likely to be problematic, given the level of poverty of many countries of the region and understaffed law enforcement agencies. A combination of funds made available for the employment of extra personnel, and ensuring adequate transportation means, as well as for the implementation of educational programmes, should improve the success of protective measures.
In a world undergoing continuous and rapid alteration, it is fundamental to preserve manatee habitat. Manatees' basic requirements include water, food, shallow areas, and shelter, usually not encompassed in marine reserves. Known well-used sites, meeting those specifications should be designated as protected areas, refuges, or sanctuaries specifically for manatees, following the example of the Chocon-Machacas Reserve in Guatemala. Manatees are herbivores and depend on the quality and quantity of vegetation in and surrounding manatee preferred sites. Seagrass beds must be protected to ensure appropriate and uninterrupted supply. Additionally, fresh water plant supplies, specifically aquatic true grasses, also need to be protected as a source of food for manatees. Areas known to be used for mating, calving, and resting, should be designated as critical habitat and enjoy the most stringent protection. Safe and quiet routes to and from the sea are also essential for manatee maintenance. As manatees seem to move over longer distances and time periods than previously thought (Rathbun et al. 1983b), protection must be granted to corridors connecting protected areas, thereby creating manatee reserve networks.
Wider Caribbean countries should ratify and offer support to the Ramsar Convention in the conservation of Ramsar sites, and become involved in the consolidation of biosphere reserves as conservation tools, appropriate to the environmental, cultural and socio-economic needs of the region. Probably the best way to conserve manatees is establishing large reserves/protected areas where any activity adverse or detrimental to the animals (hunting, net fishing, boating, human settlement) is outlawed. However, such an ideal situation may become harder and harder to achieve under the economic difficulties faced by many countries of the region. The best alternative may be a biosphere reserve approach, whereby the local populations are not removed from the area to be protected, and a zoning system is defined. Zoning includes areas to be maintained permanently untouched (such as areas identified as mating grounds, in the present case) and areas where a controllable take may be allowed for subsistence. This system will require a good amount of information on the species and the area. The selection process of zones takes into consideration the rights of the peoples affected by the designation of the protected area, and allows for local residents' opinion in the decision-making process. The involvement level derived from this strategy gives the local inhabitants a sense of responsibility which may be crucial in the attempts to save the manatee.
3c. Reduce human-related mortality
Considering that manatee populations in the Wider Caribbean are small, and the reproductive potential of the species is slow, it is necessary to keep human-induced mortality (the only one over which we may have) at a low level. Encourage, initiate and develop identification of mortality factors through a carcass salvage programme. As opportunities arise, examine dead manatees to determine their size, sex and cause of death. Records of locations where mortality occur should also be taken.
i). Maintain and increase law enforcement regulations to ban gill netting
In place of intentional hunting, manatees (especially young) in the Wider Caribbean are being killed due to accidental entanglement in nets. As the greatest immediate threat to manatees in the region, gill net fishing in rivers must remain banned, and further regulations implemented to prevent the misuse of this activity. Special attention must be given to those nets illegally placed across or near the mouths of rivers, blocking off river mouths and the entrance to lagoons. If the trend of catching young animals continues, recruitment of manatee populations may be seriously threatened.
ii). Maintain and increase law enforcement regulations against manatee hunting
In many countries within the range of the species, manatee hunting by harpoon is on the decline, and seems to be naturally disappearing from the arsenal of native subsistence techniques. Despite this reducing trend, the take of even a few manatees every year may represent the difference between growth or decline of the very small manatee populations in the region. Hunters should be initially warned and later apprehended to set the example among violators.
4. Promote co-operation and exchange of information on manatee conservation at the national and regional levels
4a. Prepare national recovery plans and organize national recovery teams
A recovery plan consists of the compilation of guidelines for the appropriate preservation of the species and must serve the overall goal of ensuring the continued survival of manatee populations in the Wider Caribbean. A detailed recovery plan should be developed and implemented in each country of the Wider Caribbean where manatees occur, tailored to the specific needs and conditions of the country. Additionally, the plan must be formulated in such a way to attract relevant donors that will make the plan operational and financially viable. The document should be based on the best available data for each country and include an annotated list of the activities to be adopted in the fields of conservation, scientific research, law enforcement, and education. The recovery plan should include to the extent possible, contingency plan for single or catastrophic events (such as oil spills, hurricanes, epizootics), a protocol for rescue and rehabilitation of distressed or injured manatees, and guidelines on the release and re-introduction of rehabilitated animals to the wild. The Caribbean Stranding Network, in Puerto Rico, might be contacted regarding the latter points given their previous involvement with injured manatees. For example, guidelines for salvaging and necropsy will be available shortly from the Stranding Network. It is advisable to produce and distribute a list of individuals and agencies interested in helping during such events. Agencies and/or individuals should be assigned specific responsibilities and a time-table must accompany the recovery plan for implementation of each proposed activity. The plan must be revised and updated regularly, and reports being produced yearly. The elaboration of specific-area plans may be warranted for areas identified as of special interest for manatees.
Investigators, conservationists, managers, policy makers, government officials and non-government organizations, grass-roots and members of the local communities, should be involved in the elaboration of this document. This group of experts should comprise the national recovery team, in charge of co-ordinating the implementation of recovery activities, and monitoring and evaluating its progress at the national level. The establishment of national recovery teams will not attract any costs and the work of the network will be considered voluntary. Additionally, bilateral agreements with countries which have already developed their recovery plans could be undertaken to assist with the preparation of recovery plans in other countries.
4b. Establish an information and co-operation network among the Wider Caribbean countries that share manatee populations
i). Regional manatee network:
The establishment of an efficient and reliable communication system to allow exchange of experiences and information, as well as the co-ordination of efforts of common interest is of paramount importance. Individual countries must analyze the strategies utilized in the other countries of the region to conduct environmental education, as well as the technical, cultural, social, economic and political conditions that facilitate or retard their implementation. International interest and support may prove essential for successful manatee conservation in the Wider Caribbean. Manatees in Florida range over large areas and engage in long movements. Experts have suggested that Belize and Mexico share a manatee population in Chetumal Bay. Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras may also harbor mobile populations of manatees. In that context, manatee management will only be achieved through regional co-operation. The establishment of multilateral agreements will prove important not only for research purposes but to ensure that manatee protection extends beyond the boundaries of any given country. Data may eventually show that the Antillean subspecies may be treated as a single population, in which case an international management plan may be justified. A regional information-sharing system can only improve co-operation among the groups presently conducting research on manatees in countries of the Wider Caribbean. Sirenian researchers have the advantage of working with a small number of species distributed in a relatively restricted area, as compared to other marine mammal specialists. This unique characteristic allows professionals involved with manatee conservation in the Caribbean, to work at an almost grass roots level, with the tremendous advantage of facilitated co-ordination of activities and reduced levels of bureaucracy. The existing newsletter of the IUCN/SSC Sirenia Specialist Group, SIRENEWS, and The Pilot (the newsletter of the Marine Mammal Action Plan) should be considered as an important channel for sharing of information. Since already in existence, funding and time will not be required to develop another news-sharing mechanism.
The utilization of an electronic mail network within all institutions involved in manatee research and conservation in the region can expedite the exchange of information and is highly recommended. Use of the global Internet System should be promoted as one of the primary means of communication between institutions.
It should be noted that Brazil is the only country of the range of Trichechus manatus which is not included in the Wider Caribbean network. It is recommended that, for the purposes of conservation network, Brazil be considered as part of the manatee-range countries of the region.
ii).Manatee regional network co-ordinator:
A regional manatee co-ordinator should be elected to assist with the co-ordination of manatee-related activities in the region. Co-ordinator responsibilities should include collecting, centralizing and disseminating all information concerning manatees (specifically but not limited to mortality statistics and data, reproduction, movements), co-ordinating all research and manatee management activities, of the regional network and identifying relevant sources of financial support for specific projects.
B. LONG-TERM CONSERVATION MEASURES
1. Monitor the status of manatees in the region
1a. Status and distribution:
Aerial surveys have been widely used to determine manatee abundance and distribution in the Wider Caribbean (Bengtson and Magor 1979, Belitsky and Belitsky 1980, Rathbun et al. 1983, 1985, 1986, Powell et al. 1981, O'Shea et al. 1988). However, they constitute a very expensive technique which should be used only after the preliminary work of interview surveying has been completed. Interviews and the background report (see Priority Measures) should support focused aerial surveys. Surveys should cover the entire coast, including areas of past and present manatee presence and thoroughly search areas where manatee density might be anticipated, such as river mouths, or sites identified during the preliminary work. Boat searches should be dedicated only to areas of highest density. Following the more intense searching, regularly replicated aerial surveys are likely to disclose trends in manatee numbers and distribution. After basic data has been amassed and assuming funding is available, efforts could be concentrated on a few wild animals intensively followed, using radiotelemetry to obtain detailed information on movements and habitat use. Initially, only a few VHF tags should be used, and the number increased as appropriate. The use of more costly satellite tags should only be attempted after tag loss and visibility problems have been overcome, background data has accumulated, and researchers are familiar with the techniques. Radio-tracked individuals can provide information about manatee behavior and social structure.
1b. Biological information leading to major aspects of population dynamics:
Current threats to the continued existence of manatees include hunting/poaching, incidental catch in fishing and shrimp nets, debris ingestion, monofilament lines and hooks, vandalism, contamination, and habitat loss. These factors must be quantified and monitored to obtain an understanding of their relative importance and plan regulatory measures accordingly. Potential conflicts between manatees and regional human activities, such as fishing, deforestation and construction of canals and dams should be identified and monitored. Baseline data must also be acquired on common diseases and parasites in manatees in the Wider Caribbean and their role in natural manatee mortality.
The carcass salvage/necropsy programme in effect in Florida for almost two decade has demonstrated the value of gathering long-term data. The recovery of carcasses found stranded or victims of accidental entanglement in fishing nets, can provide a wealth of information on basic life history parameters, as well as the most serious threats to manatees in the area, including realistic estimates of human-induced mortality. Florida, and more recently Puerto Rico, may serve as models for the implementation of this programme. Higher temperatures and lack of appropriate facilities will initially hamper efforts to obtain complete data, so standardized data sheets must be planned to expedite the process of data collection. A network of informants and a hotline for reporting dead manatees, followed by prompt response, may greatly improve the chances of success. If state of decomposition allows it, a complete necropsy should be performed and samples collected of all organs to help evaluate natural causes of mortality and conduct genetic studies, according to the necropsy manual developed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the long run, the data accumulated will permit the analysis of population biology parameters and application of population models to manatees in the Wider Caribbean.
2. Monitor habitat condition
2a. Identify habitat requirements and protect areas of special significance to manatees:
Countries in the Wider Caribbean are undergoing a series of alterations regarding coastal development and tourism activities. No species will survive if their habitat is gone. Therefore, it is fundamental to characterize and protect manatee habitat, and evaluate and monitor changes. The physico-chemical characteristics of water bodies inhabited by manatees, the distribution and abundance of feeding grounds (seagrasses and freshwater aquatic vegetation), and mating and calving areas should be investigated and identified. The use of the Geographic Information System to display and manipulate geographically-referenced databases (e.g., manatee location, habitat data, information on development projects, and carcass salvage data) has been extremely useful in decision-making in Florida and should be implemented in the rest of the region, as soon as funding is available.
2b. Promote restoration of degraded manatee preferred areas:
In many countries, habitats previously occupied by manatees, have been altered by industrial and urban development, siltation, agricultural runoff and sewage. Areas historically used by the species must be returned to (or as possible as to) its original condition and released for manatee reoccupation.
3. Monitor and modify accordingly manatee awareness programmes and law enforcement measures
3a. Manatee awareness:
The use of a manatee conservation education programme in communities near future reserves should be regularly promoted, through the inclusion of an education component to all proposed and presently protected areas. An educational programme for park users and interpretation programmes for parks visitors, advising them of the regulations, should be initiated in protected areas that contain manatees. Small supervised tours, however, may be encouraged. Local personnel (park rangers, researchers, managers) must be trained, and tour operators running boats in and out of the area licensed, so they become familiar and understand the value of the resource, honor all regulations regarding manatees, and help educate the public. The success in the establishment of a new reserve or implementation of an existing park, will depend partially on the support received from the various segments of the society. Besides the regular public, it is important not to neglect the traditional cultures living within the boundaries of the protected area. Involving native people in the administration of the reserve will give them a sense of worth, prevent resistance to protective measures, and improve the possibility of success. Effective pathways should be identified to communicate with and inform local and national governments, and non-governmental organizations, about the reserve such as to obtain political support in the strengthening of the protected area. Efforts should be made to include manatee in management plans for national and state/district systems of protected areas. It is also important to ensure public access to the designated areas via public transportation to ensure regular visitors and consequently a significant impact on public awareness.
All education and public awareness programmes should be evaluated on a regular basis to assess their impact within the communities or the groups they are targeted for, and be modified if necessary.
3b. Assess and improve the effectiveness of existing law:
All countries should review the set of laws that makes up their protective legislation regarding manatees and their habitats. The protected status of manatees must be dealt with in an explicit manner, rather than by default in a more general fauna protection legislation. Any ambiguities that give margin to double interpretations in the law must be eliminated. If necessary, legislation should be expanded to address specific areas or conflicts.
Communication among experts on legislation of each country would allow a review of the legislation at a regional level, and might lead to the updating and standardization of laws and fines along the area of distribution of the manatee. This would guarantee the species a consistent regulatory and enforcement effort throughout its range.
4. Reduce activities that may be detrimental to manatees
Manatees are very mobile and do not remain in confined areas all the time. Consequently, manatees are subject to encounters with boats in the travelled waters. Watercraft collisions represent one of the most important causes of manatee mortality in the southeastern USA almost every year. The numbers of motorized boats in the region are rising as these have been replacing the traditional dugout canoes in Wider Caribbean countries. To prevent the development of a similar situation to the one in Florida, speeds will have to be regulated and boat areas designated in preferred manatee areas. As an added advantage, slow speed zones prevent bank erosion, water turbidity, and human fatalities.
Disturbances such as water skiing, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, jet skiing, boating, and fishing should be prohibited within the proximity of manatee areas. Tourism-associated practices must be regulated to prevent manatees from moving away from preferred or critical areas.
Coastal area development is accelerating in many areas of the Wider Caribbean. If unplanned, many of these activities may detrimentally affect manatee populations, by causing pollution, increased boat traffic and water turbidity, and mangrove destruction. It is necessary to consider these factors when drafting growth management plans for specific areas, and include sound and comprehensive policies regarding sewage treatment, agricultural runoff, contaminant input, mangrove destruction, deforestation, and erosion. Permit applications for the implementation of large-scale development enterprises in manatee habitats, should require an environmental impact assessment, and educational and enforcement programmes.
It must be constantly kept in mind that the fundamental process bringing humans and manatees into increasing conflict is the continued explosive growth of the human population. Governments of all manatee-range countries must acknowledge -and manatee recovery plans must reflect- the fact that all efforts on behalf of manatees and other endangered species and their habitats, will ultimately be futile if human populations are not stabilized.
5. Develop guidelines for manatees and tourism
Ecotourism is a growing activity in many countries in the Wider Caribbean. Already, a number of countries offer attractions involving manatees. This trend is expected to grow as the search for pristine environments by the tourism industry increases.
Ecotourism has the potential for benefits to manatee conservation. These result primarily from a reduction in the mortality if former hunters convert to tour guides. However, the disadvantages to manatee conservation are also recognized.
The opportunities for targeting manatees in ecotourism will vary from country to country. Where such opportunities are being pursued, national policies and management strategies must ensure that disturbance to the animals is prevented.
The role of manatees in ecotourism or education should therefore be pursued only where effective management can be guaranteed, or where manatees need to be held in captive or recuperative programmes. Where ecotourism involving manatees is to be allowed, it should always be a part of a management plan for the species and strictly zoned, in order to minimize disturbance to breeding populations.
Small scale ecotourism is already taking place in countries like Belize and Trinidad. Many people are willing to travel long distances for the opportunity of observing unique wildlife in unspoiled ecosystems. Ecotourism may be beneficial to manatees if properly planned and managed and may represent an alternative source of income to hunters and fishermen, and generally improve the local economy. In Florida, the yearly income of thousands of tourists interested in seeing and swimming with manatees has rendered great public support for manatee conservation. However, there is a fine line between human-manatee contact and harassment. For the effective management of tourism in manatee protected areas, it is recommended that the scientific community, the tourist industry and the natural resources agencies jointly delineate policies, and define management strategies for visitors and granting of concessions to commercial enterprises. Such policies should be geared to prevent harm to the animals and their habitats. Visitors must receive a short educational talk and be advised of the local rules. Only licensed guides, who must go through a training programme, may be allowed to take visitors for a closer viewing of the animals. The number of visitors must be limited, and their presence and actions regulated and restricted to certain areas and times of the day. Feeding will not be allowed and harassment should not be tolerated. In a few areas, swimming with manatees might be allowed. Only small-scale businesses, adapted to the local community, may be allowed into the area such as to improve the local economy rather than negatively affect it.
6. Develop guidelines for manatees in captivity
Programmes involving captive manatees in the Wider Caribbean should deal exclusively with the rescue and rehabilitation, with high consideration given to maximizing public education during the process. Rehabilitated manatees should be returned to the wild unless they are not re-adaptable to natural conditions. Programmes in Florida have demonstrated the feasibility of propagating manatees in aquaria. The monetary burden of maintaining manatees in captivity under adequate conditions may be excessive for many Wider Caribbean countries. Removal of manatees for captivity may also cause more harm to manatee conservation than help. The removal of only a few animals from small populations such as manatees in the Wider Caribbean, is likely to have an impact on the reproduction, gene pool and maintenance of the subspecies in the area. The concept of captivity for display may send the wrong idea that manatees are safe and efforts to preserve habitat and manatees in the wild are unnecessary.
Guidelines should be established for those cases where manatees are maintained in captivity for rehabilitation to ensure the well-being of individual manatees. All cases of captivity and semi-captivity,must be approved by the agency responsible for issuing the protective law for manatees. Captures for display and other non-rehabilitation situations must be prevented. Display of manatees (non-releasable, rehabilitated) must be coupled with public education and research programmes. For those animals that are maintained captive or semi-captive, a veterinarian must be appointed in charge of seeing to its well-being, proper and daily supply of well-balanced diet, and regular health check-ups. The long-term holding facilities must meet basic requirements regarding size of the pool/enclosure and water quality. In the eventual release of the animal back into the wild, the area for relocation must be carefully selected and the animal marked and closely monitored.
7. Provide training for local personnel and biologists in the area of coastal area management and conservation
The continuity of programmes dedicated to manatees into long-term national initiatives will require the development of local expertise and committed individuals. Local, regional and national biologists must be trained at various levels, from technician to graduate, as well as through internships and secondments. As the offer of wildlife programmes might be very limited at the local level, candidates may have to seek education abroad. Training may not have to be strictly on manatee biology, although some exposure to that field is highly recommended. Programmes should preferably focus on coastal wildlife management and conservation, which provide a broader scope of disciplines. Upon return to the native country, biologists will be expected to share their knowledge and experience with the local scientific community, and should entertain the idea of implementing a national programme. Close co-ordination would be maintained with the training component of the SPAW Regional Programme for protected areas and wildlife personnel.
C. SUGGESTED COUNTRY-SPECIFIC ACTIONS
In order to ensure that efforts to conserve manatees are regionally and nationally focussed on issues of critical importance, countries should attempt (based on existing information) to identify critical issues. In this context, the following country-specific actions are being recommended to assist with the identification of critical issues relevant to manatee conservation in each country. The underlined activities are being recommended as priority measures.
Establish a reserve or park including Northern and Southern Lagoons, and the Manatee Bar area. Designate speed zones within Southern Lagoon to protect manatees from boat encounters. Fully protect Tarpon Hole from motorized boat activity. Exercise stronger enforcement, increase restriction, and consider banning altogether gill nets within the lagoon system. Regulate activities of nature tours programmed to interact with manatees (including feeding, snorkeling and swimming with the animals) in Southern Lagoon and the lower Belize River or off of Drowned Caye. Elaborate a comprehensive land-use plan for the Manatee Special Development Area and the Big Creek/Placencia Special Development Area and its watershed, addressing sewage practices, siltation, turbidity, increased high speed boat traffic, chemical runoff, petrochemical pollution, construction of docks and dredging around the lagoons, and mangrove destruction. Support and expand the environmental education programme conducted by the Belize Audubon Society to all coastal communities. Insert an education component to the proposed Manatee Sanctuary in Southern Lagoon. Monitor and regulate the expansion of citrus plantations around Southern Lagoon, and sugar plantations and factories along the New River. Monitor offshore shrimping and fishing practices. Continue efforts to assess population, and refine census estimates, using radio telemetry and additional aerial surveys, focusing on Southern Lagoon. Define migration routes within Mexico and into nearby countries, preferably in co-operation with Mexico and Guatemala. Investigate the shore south of the ocean mouth of the Bar River as a possible offshore feeding or resting area. Monitor the incidence of entanglement of manatees in shrimp trawler equipment offshore Belize. Continue the monitoring programme on water quality in the lagoon system.
Conduct interview surveys to improve data on abundance and distribution of manatees in the country. Provide financial support to implement conservation programmes. Improve the housing and husbandry conditions of captive Zallida, in the Barranquilla Zoo as well as semi-captive manatees.
Conduct an exhaustive inventory to identify the exact locations where healthy manatee populations still exist. Enforce protective legislation especially in known high-use manatee areas such as Caño Servulo, in Tortuguero. Target conservation efforts around Tortuguero and the estuary of the Colorado river. Evaluate the socio-economic importance of this species to the black population of Tortuguero, main consumers of manatee meat, and implement an education programme. Determine manatee density in Parque Nacional Tortuguero.
Protect the complex Ensenada La Broa-Río Hatiguanico as manatee preferred areas. Regulate coastal fishing activities to reduce entanglement. Control tourism-oriented development in coastal areas. Support existing research proposals in the Zapata peninsula and the Sabana-Camagüey system.
Protect freshwater sources at Tres Hermanas springs, and Las Calderas as critical manatee habitat. Protect preferred habitat at Monte Cristi, and Bahia Ocoa and Bahia Neiba. Establish legislation to regulate gill net fishing in areas used by manatees. Target environmental education programmes mainly at provinces between Manzanillo and Miches, and between Ocoa Bay and Beata Island.
Conduct interview surveys and habitat checks. Establish legislation to regulate gill net fishing in areas used by manatees. Monitor the amount of organochlorides seeping into the canals from adjacent fields.
Declare Lago de Izabal a manatee refuge. Maintain protection of El Golfete as a travel area. Establish legislation to regulate gill net fishing in areas used by manatees. Concentrate manatee awareness programmes in the Lago de Izabal/El Golfete/Rio Dulce area, using the Rio Chocon-Machacas Manatee Conservation Reserve as the focus of this education programme. Conduct more intensive surveys of Lago de Izabal. If funding is available, initiate a radiotelemetry study using VHF. If oil production begins, conduct surveys to monitor manatees near drilling sites. Establish a research programme on use of area and behaviour in the Cayo Padre area. Evaluate Cayo Padre as a calving/rearing area. Evaluate Punta Chapín as mating area. Conduct habitat studies to characterize habitats and food plants. Identify areas of aquatic meadows in Lago de Izabal. Initiate a network to report sightings of manatees. Continue water quality sampling where manatees occur.
Conduct interview surveys to update information on manatee distribution and abundance. Investigate the effects of boat traffic and gill netting on manatees.
Initiate an education programme aimed at fishermen. Regulate the use of beach seines to prevent manatee deaths.
Protect the coastal lagoons of La Mosquitia, declaring refuges for manatees at the Laguna Brus and the Caratasca system. Establish legislation to regulate gill net fishing in areas used by manatees. Further investigate the impact of gill net fishing over manatee populations. If it is certain that landlocked manatees will die, attempt to capture and release the animals. However, it is not recommended that manatees be relocated or introduced into new areas, given the potential dangers of failure. Conduct an updated survey of the Atlantic coast.
Evaluate the situation of manatees in Alligator Hole River, and either supplement their food source or remove them from the river. As they are 4 females, their release would represent an important contribution to Jamaica's small manatee population. If they are not released they should be part of an intense public education programme. Conduct a survey on the location and intensity of gill-netting practices. Develop a public awareness programme for fishermen with emphasis in the southern parishes, and in areas where manatees are regularly observed including Old Harbour Bay, Farquhar's Beach, Alligator Pond, Black River, Treasure Beach, Falmouth, Port Antonio, in an attempt to reduce the number of manatees captured accidentally and on purpose. Regulate the widespread use of seine nets especially in the southern parishes. Beach seines are a threat to manatee, turtle and benthic communities. Feasibility of banning use of seine nets at least in critical manatee areas. Prevent destruction of mangrove swamps by declaration of these areas as Protected Areas under the NRCA Act. Identify critical manatee habitats (especially breeding areas) and ensure that as far as possible these areas are included in the protected area system. Implement the manatee management plan. Enforce the ban on the use of explosives as a fishing tool.
Declare Bahia de Chetumal (Quintana Roo) a refuge area for manatees. Preserve Laguna Guerrero and canals as an important area of reproduction and calving. Regulate use of nets in bays, lagoons and canals (especially along Chetumal Bay) to ensure liberation of manatees when accidentally entangled. Regulate traffic of motor boats in Bahia de Chetumal and Rio Hondo. Formulate a management plan for coastal resources to control development of human settlements and tourist developments in Quintana Roo. Control development activities in tourism corridor Cancún-Tulum. Develop a joint effort by Belize and Mexico in defining management strategies to protect manatees and their habitat in the Quintana Roo-Belize region. Consider rivers Grijalva and Usumacinta (Tabasco), Laguna Catajazá (Chiapas) and Laguna de Términos (Campeche) for protected area status. Expand environmental programmes in effect in Quintana Roo and Veracruz to other provinces, using the present programmes as examples. Regulate industrial development along margins of large rivers and lagoon areas of Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche. Enhance law enforcement efforts in southern Quintana Roo and the hydrological system Rio Hondo-Bahia de Chetumal. Enforce legislation prohibiting manatee hunting, with special attention to manatee preferred areas. Establish and/or improve communication between inspectors from Belize and Mexico in charge of regulating and protecting the species to reach an agreement to safeguard manatees both in Mexican and Belizean waters. Restrict pesticide use in water bodies important for manatees. Control commercialization of ribs for handcraft. Clean up sewage released into Chetumal Bay. Control development activities in tourism corridor Cancún-Tulum. Evaluate and properly regulate the maintenance of captive animals in Quintana Roo and in tourist center Xcaret, close to Cancún. Monitor annual changes in manatee distribution and habitat use in Quintana Roo. Initiate aerial survey/radio tracking programme in co-operation with Belize. Continue aerial surveys of selected areas to obtain a better estimate of the population. Start research projects with manatee population in Bahia de Chetumal/Rio Hondo system. Investigate mortality patterns and start a salvage programme in the southern portion of Quintana Roo. Update interview information in Campeche and Veracruz. Investigate the intercommunicable and adjacent lagoon systems in the basin of Chacamax river (Emiliano Zapata, Tabasco) as a potential habitat of special biological significance. Examine disturbances due to contamination and boat traffic in Coatzacoalcos river in Veracruz.
Continue and expand aerial censuses of major lagoons on the northeast coast of Nicaragua to better assess current status. Investigate seasonality of manatee distribution. Provide training to a local biologist on research techniques. Develop a management plan for manatees in Nicaragua's moskitia. Launch an educational campaign to improve awareness among local populations, specifically and with an emergency character at Waunta Lagoon. Produce educational materials in Miskito, English and Spanish.
Establish protected areas along the rivers and lagoons used by manatees in Bocas del Toro province: San San, Changuinola, Mananti and Caña rivers, and Changuinola Damani and Jugli lagoons. Strictly enforce regulations against gill netting in rivers. Enforce hunting restrictions. Extend enforcement to Gatun Lake. Extend education efforts to Gatun Lake and Bocas del Toro province.
Protect high-use areas such as Pelican Cove and Ensenada Honda from development, boat traffic, and pollution. Maintain the protected status of Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, (possibly an important area for cow-calf pairs) and Jobos Bay Estuarine Sanctuary. Protect treated sewage effluents known as important sources of freshwater. Enforce legislation relative to manatee hunting. Strengthen legislation regarding gill-netting and encourage enactment of legislation or regulation of boat speed zones in known manatee areas. Continue to conduct replicated aerial surveys to assess trends in the population. Continue and expand the radio-tracking programme initiated in 1992, the carcass salvage studies and the rescue and rehabilitation project. Continue launching an intense education programme geared to manatee hunters, gill-net fishermen (to minimize catchers), boaters and the general public.
Protect areas of high manatee density such as Nanni creek, the upper Coesewijne river and the Perica river. Conduct an update interview survey to determine abundance and distribution (observation of the manatees in Suriname are virtually impossible.) Initiate an environmental education programme designed to discourage people from killing manatees for the alleged medicinal properties of the earbones. Improve enforcement of the Nature Protection Act to provide direct protection to manatees.
Trinidad and Tobago:
Update interview and aerial surveys along the country's coastal areas. Concentrate efforts initially in the Nariva area where residents have shown concern and interest in assisting with conservation efforts, and expand to adjacent areas. Review present legislation (especially the Fisheries Act of 1980) to provide better protection to manatees. Initiate the development of a draft recovery plan that aims at a sustainable and multiple use of the resources, having manatee and manatee habitat protection as a key goal.
Include manatee protection plans in land-use proposals. Establish additional sanctuaries to protect critical habitat from development and watercraft activity. Enforce boat traffic regulations in the waterways.
Declare extensive areas along the least populated waterways of the Delta as manatee reserves. Give a special emphasis to manatee management in the objectives for the establishment of reserves at Caño La Brea and Morichal Largo rivers. Grant manatee reserve status to Caño La Brea and Morichal Largo river. Formulate a management plan which includes manatee conservation for Cienaga de Juan Manuel (both the reserve and the national park) at the Lago de Maracaibo region, as well as for the existing or future protected areas: Turuepano, Caño La Brea and Morichal Largo. Formulate mangrove forest management plans for the Delta Amacuro State after the plans in existence for Monagas State. Educate fishermen to release manatees incidentally captured without harming them. Continue and increase enforcement of laws prohibiting manatee hunting. Enforce net fishery regulations, particularly in the llanos tributaries of the Orinoco. Carefully evaluate effect of development projects, especially dikes and channel closures in Apure and Delta Amacuro States. Consider releasing the captive manatee presently under PROFAUNA'S responsibility, for biological and telemetry studies into a natural environment, possibly into Caño La Brea. Start working on the national recovery plan for the conservation of manatee. Improve the captive conditions, or alternatively, consider releasing the two manatees in a tank in San Fernando de Apure and one in Parque Zoológico de Barquisimeto and one at the Zoológico de Valencia.
All of the above recommended activities, along with the relevant implementing institutions, will require financial and in-kind contributions. Funds will be necessary for the establishment of manatee conservation and public education programmes, and to continue research into local manatee populations and their habitats. Funding must be allocated to specific target activities and to those institutions that will implement the actual research, education and enforcement activities. Each country should identify in-country financing sources (including government agencies) and support the request for adequate funds so that the actions proposed may be implemented. Local government should contribute (in cash and in-kind) to the programmes, but alternative sources of financial support must be identified. Some costs may be defrayed by working in co-operation with neighbouring countries.
It is also recommended that through the SPAW Regional Programme of the Caribbean Environment Programme a financial contribution is allocated on a continued basis in support of manatee activities in the Wider Caribbean. This document and the future national recovery plans should assist at both the national and international levels with the fundraising required for the implementation of activities as soon as possible. A global Action Plan for Sirenia species is presently being drafted for IUCN. It is advisable to maintain communication with and join efforts with the IUCN and its Sirenian Specialist Group, as well as close co-operation with the Marine Mammal Action Plan.
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Preface and Objectives | Summary | I. Introduction | II. National Status | III. Short and Long-term... | IV. References | Appendix I | Appendix II | Appendix III | Table 1 | Manatee Map