The Rhyme of the Ancient Manatee Hunter
As part of our dream of operating a sustainable organic manatee farm on Isla Mujeres, my friend P. Sundae and I are always doing research on the web about manatee meat facts and figures. P. asked me how much meat a typical manatee yields, and since I am his knowledge broker when it comes to aquatic mammals, I found an article with the answer – and so much more. Click here for the full tale – it’s like The Old Man and the Sea but really one-sided.
Hunting for manatees in the 1960’s was an adventure. It was a special expedition to get meat for the family and for the village. You were almost a hero when you announced that you had caught a manatee and had processed over 500 pounds of meat for the village.
Preparations began two days in advance after you announced it so that the villagers knew that there would be a fresh supply of meat for the table. Trust me, in a fishing village where one ate fish three times a day, a change to meat was like Christmas. Manatee meat sold, as far as I can remember, for ten cents a pound fresh or salted. Most families purchased ten or fifteen pounds and preserved it with salt so that it could last for a few days. To go hunting one needed a fairly large boat with an outboard motor as some chasing had to be done after the manatee was spotted. Then you needed a harpoon with a fairly long and strong rope. You also needed a fairly large and heavy wooden club. Yes, a large sharp knife was necessary to rip open the half inch thick skin of the animal and then to fillet and process the meat.