Antillean Manatee, Caribbean Manatee (Trichechus manatus ssp. manatus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12254342
The Antillean manatee, an herbivorous marine mammal, is globally endangered. It is considered a species of priority concern throughout the Wider Caribbean Region, where manatee populations have been reduced by direct hunting, bycatch, vessel strikes and habitat loss and degradation, among other threats. Quantitative data on hunting and bycatch are difficult to obtain because these activities are poorly monitored and often involve illegal behavior. On Hispaniola Island, shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a lack of information is hindering the development of national conservation plans for this species. Furthermore, it is likely that a single manatee population exists on the island, but the two countries offer different levels of protection through national legislation and the existence of marine protected areas. I propose the first bi-national collaborative project to evaluate the status of manatees at the island level. The project will consist of survey research, using standardized questionnaires implemented by local trained volunteers, targeting small-scale artisanal fishers. The surveys are part of a multinational Manatee Bycatch Pilot Project organized by the Regional Activity Center for the Specially protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol. The surveys are also one component of my doctoral research at Duke University on the conservation of Antillean manatees in the Dominican Republic. The leading institutes implementing the surveys are the Centro de Investigaciones de Biología Marina of the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and the NGO Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversite Marine in Haiti.
Our goals include: evaluating fishermen’s perception of distribution patterns and trends in the abundance of manatees in the Island of Hispaniola; identifying manatee high-use areas, especially those overlapping with fishing areas which may require immediate conservation action; assessing the threats posed by directed catches, bycatch and vessel strikes; contributing recommendations for conservation planning. The project will also strengthen local capacity by training Dominican and Haitian volunteers in survey research methods. The project represents an opportunity for the two countries to work together for the first time to evaluate the status of endangered Antillean manatees at the island level, and help identify avenues for collaboration and the development of bi-national conservation action.
Project 12254342 location - Dominican Republic, North America