Meso-America Regional Group
The Meso-America Regional Group of the Sirenia Specialist Group currently includes 19 experts from 9 countries. The group objectives were established through a participatory process and published in the April 2013 edition of Sirenews (http://sirenian.org/sirenews/59APR2013.pdf). An action strategy for the group is under development.
In keeping with the group objective of providing Antillean manatee assessments and diagnostics on conservation needs in Meso-America, since 2012, Mexico, Belize, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Haiti have participated in the Manatee Bycatch Pilot Project. The Project was initiated by the Regional Activity Center for the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol (RAC-SPAW), to evaluate the use of a standardized questionnaire as a tool to assess some of the principal threats to the West Indian manatee in the Wider Caribbean Region, especially from catch, bycatch and vessel strikes. A general summary was presented in the October 2014 edition of Sirenews (http://sirenian.org/sirenews/62OCT2014.pdf). One major accomplishment of the Project is the collection of much needed current information on manatee distribution, abundance trends and threats in the participating countries. More detailed country-level reports and publications are underway.
For the last two years, the Meso-America Regional Group has promoted the celebration of the International Manatee Day in the month of September. So far, Mexico, Belize, Puerto Rico and Cuba have participated with a wealth of education and awareness activities, increasing the interest and involvement of key actors and the general public in manatee conservation. The group is fostering collaboration to include more countries each year in these festivities.
Most recently, the Meso-America Regional Group has provided input to the IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group (CCSG) on climate change-related activities and needs for the Antillean manatee.
Lighthawk has enabled a regional aerial survey conducted in May 2014. Participating countries were Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. Dr. Holly Edwards (Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute) assisted in preparing the team in testing a new methodology to calculate abundance in heterogeneous systems. Preliminary counts are available. The final technical report is pending.
Belize has undertaken updating the National Manatee Recovery Plan, with participation from members of their National Manatee Working Group, including Mexican and Columbian manatee experts.