Belize in Central America supports one of the largest populations of endangered Antillean manatees in the Caribbean. In 2012, a country—wide survey resulted in the highest count ever recorded (507 manatees). Manatee use of atolls has only been documented at Turneffe Atoll in Belize. Manatees in Belize, including those that use Turneffe, have been shown to be impacted by human activities including habitat degradation, entanglement in fishing gear, poaching, and watercraft. The atoll itself faces threats to its diversity and productivity. In 2002, the Oceanic Society began monitoring manatees on Turneffe to document numbers, distribution, and seasonality of use to facilitate the atoll's designation as a protected area. Since 2002, 52 sightings of manatees have been recorded at Turneffe, including cow/calf pairs, indicating it is an important part of the resource network used by the manatees. Protecting the atoll should be a priority for all working to protect manatees and Belize's natural resources.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1