Bibliography Record

Auil Gomez, Nicole E. (detail)
The fate of manatees in Belize. In: M. L. D. Palomares & D. Pauly (eds.), Too precious to drill: The marine biodiversity of Belize.
Fisheries Centre Research Reports (Univ. British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada). 19-24. 2011.
–ABSTRACT: Sirenians (manatees and dugongs) are the only fully aquatic, herbivorous marine mammals existing today and Belize boasts the largest number of Antillean manatees in the world. Yet, the country's manatee population is considered threatened and may be declining. Manatees have to contend with high-speed watercraft that account for over 20% of their mortality. Also, intentional habitat alteration and industrial practices fragment and destroy the ecosystem they depend upon. Land-based effluent has decimated subaquatic vegetation and has likely compromised individual manatee health in areas such as Placencia Lagoon. High levels of toxic trace elements, including lead, were also found in manatees captured there. With limited data on the threats of contaminants to manatees, a pilot study showed that organic contaminants (polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs) in manatees from Chetumal Bay may currently present a threat to their immune function and reproduction. Marine currents may allow PCBs to be present at a regional level. Also, as radio-tracked manatees have been documented to travel between Belize and Chetumal Bay, they are further exposed to organic compounds through inadvertent consumption of sediment during grazing. Added petrochemicals would further contaminate and destroy manatee feeding areas as the toxic components of oil are thought to accumulate in seagrass leaves, making vegetation vulnerable to these stressors. After an oil spill, manatees, dolphins and turtles are exposed to volatile hydrocarbons while traveling and feeding, as shown from surveys following the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. While experiments on captive marine mammals indicate that manatees can withstand small amounts of exposure to, or ingestion of, oil, it is not certain if these animals can detect, avoid, or leave a contaminated area before experiencing significant harmful effects. With very limited data on the effect of oil-related stressors to sirenians, we know that the threats they face today, compounded with the incalculable environmental damage of an oil-related disaster, would certainly affect the chances for survival of the endangered manatees in Belize.

Related Index Records (4)

(formerly British Honduras) (SEE ALSO: Central America)
  2011 Auil Gomez, N. E. (TMM; anthropogenic threats)

(SEE ALSO: Accidental Death or Injury; Economic Uses; Hunting and Capture; Weed Control)
  2011 Auil Gomez, N. E. (TMM; Belize)

Pollution, Effects of
(SEE ALSO: Temperature, Effects of)
  2011 Auil Gomez, N. E. (TMM; Belize)

Trichechus manatus manatus Linnaeus, 1758, Hatt, 1934
  2011 Auil Gomez, N. E. (Belize; anthropogenic threats)

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