Title

Distribution, Status and Conservation of the Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Veracruz, Mexico

Event Name/Location

19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Tampa, Florida, November 27-December 2, 2011

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

2011

Abstract

The Antillean manatee is the most endangered marine mammal along the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) coast. Additionally, there is a lack of information on the distribution, status and conservation needs of the species in the southern region of the GoM. Manatees have been documented in Veracruz since the pre-Colombian era. However, hunting and habitat loss and degradation have reduced manatee abundance. We conducted a comprehensive study between 1999 and 2009 comprising aerial, boat and interview surveys along the 800 km coast of Veracruz. We aimed to assess the current manatee abundance, distribution, and habitats, and to delineate the major conservation issues. Surveys indicated that manatees still occur in most rivers and estuaries of Veracruz, with a major presence in the Alvarado lagoon system, and the Coatzacoalcos, Tonala, Nautla and Tecolutla Rivers, in descending order of importance. Contrary to previous reports, manatees occur in northern Veracruz and along the border with Tamaulipas, although in low numbers. The distribution of manatees in Veracruz is discontinuous, and their habitat is fragmented because of the intense use of the coastal zone for agriculture, cattle ranching; fishing and port activities; urban and tourism development and petroleum exploration and exploitation. Despite this, continuous sightings of new-bom and young manatees indicate the importance of this region for reproduction and demonstrate the resilience of the species. Conservation and research efforts have focused on identifying critical manatee areas; assessing major threats; rescue of injured and orphan animals; rehabilitation and management in captivity; outreach programs and preparation of a regional management plan with the collaboration of local authorities. We conclude that in Veracruz occurs one of the most vulnerable manatee populations in the GoM because of the major threats listed above, which are aggravated by inadequate regulation of coastal zone development and climate change impacts.

Comments

©The Society for Marine Mammalogy

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