Paraíba Coast IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

41 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

West Indian manatee – Trichechus manatus

Criterion A; B (1); C (1,2)

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The Paraiba Coast is one of the most important areas in Brazil for West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus). The availability of needle grass, algae, and macrophytes provides food sources, while freshwater inputs and shallow, protected waters provide ideal habitat for the species to mate, give birth and nurse young.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion A – Species or Population Vulnerability


Populations of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) are sensitive to changes in coastal environments, and are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, boat strikes, and primarily by the loss of habitat (Borges et al., 2007; Meirelles, 2008). In Brazil, the frequent occurrence of stranded manatees, in particular neonates, reflects anthropogenic threats including accidental capture in fishing nets, and the degradation of the estuaries in which the species breeds (Parente et al., 2004; Meirelles et al., 2014 ; Aquasis, 2016; Medeiros et al., 2021).

Given the considerable pressures on the surviving wild populations, West Indian manatees are considered one of the Brazilian aquatic mammals most threatened with extinction (MMA, 2022), with a total population in the Brazilian Northeast estimated to be just over 1,000 individuals (Alves et al., 2015). The species is globally classified as “Vulnerable” (Deutsch et al. 2008) and nationally listed as “Endangered” (MMA, 2022). However, recently an independent assessment classified the species as “Critically Endangered” in Brazil (Meirelles et al., 2022).

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion B1: Small and Resident Populations

Aerial surveys and other studies indicate that the Paraiba coast hosts relatively high densities of manatees in comparison with other areas of Brazil’s coastline (e.g. Alves et al., 2015).  However, there are indications that the population has been reduced over the years due to various anthropogenic factors (Lima et al., 2011; Alves et al., 2013; Alves et al., 2015).

Since the first manatee surveys conducted in Brazil in the 1980s, the estuaries of the Mamanguape and Miriri Rivers, both contained within this IMMA have consistently registered highest frequency of occurrence and abundance of the species. Albuquerque and Marcovaldi (1982) indicated that the estuary of the Mamanguape River, in Paraíba state, hosted the highest manatee concentration on the northeastern coast in Brazil, where groups of up to 15 animals were documented near the mouth of the river and along the coast.

In addition to the native manatee populations, the region is a release area for rehabilitated manatees. Radio and satellite tracking of some these released individuals provides insight into the home ranges and fidelity to sites in the region (Normande et al., 2016; dos Santos et al., 2022). Home range size of tracked individuals was 2.56 – 42.07 km2, small enough to be contained within the IMMA. The longest distance travelled from the coastline upriver was 14.24 km and the longest distance offshore was only 0.93 km (dos Santos et al., 2022).

Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities

Sub-criterion C1: Reproductive Areas

The estuaries of the Mamanguape and Miriri rivers are considered relevant areas for the reproduction of manatees, as they have reefs that provide more sheltered environments with shallow waters (Silva et al., 2011). Births generally occur between October and March, when sightings of females with calves are frequent (Lima et al., 2011).  Mating is more frequently observed during the in the dry period (austral summer) (Balensiefer et al., 2017).

Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas

Dos Santos (2020) characterized the home range areas of rehabilitated manatees released in this region. The results showed that manatees exhibited a preference for sites shallower than two meters, with food resources and freshwater availability.

The presence of reefs covered with marine algae is a determinant factor in the occurrence of the manatee. They were sighted feeding on algae that grow over the reefs close to beaches that were of high energy during high tide. They occur in depths of 0.4 to 3.8 m; the distance from the beach varies according to the tide level (Paludo & Langguth, 2002).

Paludo (1998) recorded, through direct observations, the manatees feeding on banks of algae, where a large proportion of red algae were recorded. Borges et al. (2008) analysed stomach content samples from manatees accidentally caught in the states of Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba and Alagoas, in addition to samples of feces from released and wild animals in northern Paraíba. A wide range of items was recorded, such as seagrass, algae and mangroves. The authors draw attention to the significance of red algae found in the contents studied. These findings support the direct observations made by Paludo (1998). These algae appear to be abundant on the coast of Paraíba, where the majority of the samples studied came from. The findings indicate that seaweeds are an important item in the diet of the species in the region, different from what has been recorded in other places, where this item seems to be consumed occasionally or accidentally along with seagrass.

Supporting Information

Almeida, I. C. 2022. Estimativa do tamanho populacional, área de uso e fatores de ameaças de boto-cinza (Sotalia guianensis VAN BENEDEN, 1864) no Nordeste do Brasil. Dissertação apresentada ao Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Monitoramento Ambiental como parte dos requisitos para obtenção do título de Mestre em Ecologia. Universidade Federal da Paraíba. 87 p.

Alves, M.D.O., Schwamborn, R., Borges, J.C.G., Marmontel, M., Costa, A.F., Schettini, C.A.F., Araújo, M.E., 2013. Aerial survey of manatees, dolphins and sea turtles off northeastern Brazil: Correlations with coastal features and human activities. Biol. Conserv. 161, 91–100. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2013.02.015

Alves, M.D.O, Kinas, P.G., Marmontel, M., Borges, J.C.G., Costa, A.F., Schiel, N., Araújo, M.E., 2015. First abundance estimate of the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Brazil by aerial survey. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. United Kingdom 96: 1–12. doi:10.1017/S0025315415000855

Albuquerque, C., Marcovaldi, G. M. 1982. Ocorrência e Distribuição das Populações do Peixe-Boi Marinho no Litoral Brasileiro (SIRENIA – Trichechidae, Trichechus manatus, Linnaeus, 1758). SIMPÓSIO INTERNACIONAL DE ECOSSISTEMAS COSTEIROS: POLUIÇÃO E PRODUTIVIDADE.

Balensiefer, D. C., Attademo, F. L. N., Sousa, G. P., Freire, A. C. B., da Cunha, F. A. G. C., Alencar, A. M. B., Silva, F. J. L., Luna, F. O. Three Decades of Antillean Manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) Stranding Along the Brazilian Coast. Tropical Conservation Science. 10 : 1-9.

Borges, J.C.G., Araújo, P.G., Anzolin, D.G., Miranda, G.E.C., 2008. Identificação de itens alimentares constituintes da dieta dos peixes-boi marinhos (Trichechus manatus) na região nordeste do Brasil. Biotemas. 21 (2), 77–81.

Borges, J.C.G., Vergara-Parente, J.E., Alvite, C.M.C., Marcondes, M.C.C., Lima, R.P., 2007. Embarcações motorizadas: uma ameaça aos peixes-bois marinhos (Trichechus manatus) no Brasil. Biota Neotrop. 7: 199–204.

De Lima, R. P., De Passavante, J. Z. O. 2013. Avaliação da primeira década (1994-2004) das reintroduções de peixes-bois marinhos (Trichechus manatus) no nordeste do Brasil. Natural Resources, 3:26-41.

De Lima, R. P., De Alvite, C. M. C., Vergara-Parente, J. E. 2007. Protocolo de Reintrodução de Peixes-Bois-Marinhos no Brasil. IBAMA, São Luis, Brazil.

Deutsch, C.J., Self-Sullivan, C., Mignucci-Giannoni, A. 2008. Trichechus manatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T22103A9356917. Accessed on 26 January 2023.

Dos Santos, S. S. 2020. Área de vida de peixes-boi marinhos (Trichechus manatus) soltos no Brasil. PhD dissertation. 87 f.

Dos Santos, S. S.; Medeiros, I. S.; Rebelo, V. A.; Carvalho, A. O. B.; Dubut, J. P.; Mantovani, J. E.; Círiaco, R. D.; Dos Santos, R. E. G.; Marmontel, M.; Normande, I. C.; Velôso, T. M. G.; Borges, J. C. G. 2022. Home ranges of released West Indian manatees in Brazil. ORYX, 56 : 1-8.

Lima, R. P., Paludo, D., Soavinski, R. J., Silva, K. G., Oliveira, E. M. A. 2011. Levantamento da distribuição, ocorrência e status de conservação do Peixe‐Boi Marinho (Trichechus manatus, Linnaeus, 1758) no litoral nordeste do Brasil. Natural Resources, v: 41‐57.

Medeiros, I. S., Rebelo, V. A., dos Santos, S. S., Menezes, R., Almeida, N. V., Messias, L. T., do Nascimento, J. L. X., Luna, F. O., Marmontel, M., Borges, J. C. G. 2021. Spatiotemporal dynamics of mangrove forest and association with strandings of Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus) calves in Paraíba, Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 1–8.

Meirelles, A.C.O. 2008. Mortality of the Antillean manatee, Trichechus manatus manatus, in Ceará State, north-eastern Brazil. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. 88: 1133–1137.

Normande, I. C., Malhado, A. C. M., Reid, J., Viana, P. C., Savaget, P. V. S., Correia, R. A., Luna, F. O., Ladle, R. J. 2016. Post-release monitoring of Antillean manatees: an assessment of the Brazilian rehabilitation and release programme. Animal Conservation, 19: 235-246.

Paludo, D., Langguth, A. 2002. Use of space and temporal distribution of Trichechus manatus Linnaeus in the region of Sagi, Rio Grande do Norte State, Brazil (Sirenia, Trichechidae). Rev. Bras. Zool, 19: 205-215.

Parente, C.L., Vergara-Parente, J.E., Lima, R. P., 2004. Strandings of Antillean Manatees, Trichechus manatus manatus, in Northeastern Brazil. LAJAM. 3: 69–75.

Silva, K. G., Paludo, D., Oliveira, E. M. A., Lima, R. P., Soavinski, R. J. 1992. Distribuição e ocorrência do Peixe‐Boi Marinho (Trichechus manatus) no estuário do rio Mamanguape, Paraíba, Brasil. 1 : 6‐18.


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