Posted on September 3, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes strict limits on commercial access to key winter manatee habitat
FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to better protect endangered manatees with new rules at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
With record numbers of manatees wintering in Three Sisters Springs, and substantial increases in the number of people wanting to see the marine mammals in their natural habitat, the rules are needed to limit the potential for “viewing-related disturbance,” according to refuge manager Andrew Gude.
“Three Sisters Springs is among the top three most frequented springs by manatees in the world,” Gude said in a press release. “It is also the only confined-water body in the United States open to the public while wintering manatees are present. Understandably, more manatees in the springs attract more people who wish to experience them up close,” Gude said. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, endangered species, Environment, manatees, PEER, Three sisters springs | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 25, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Loss of seagrass habitat, red tide events still seen as key threats
FRISCO — A new report on threats to manatees is full of mixed signals, on the one hand downgrading the extinction threat, but on the other, warning that loss of habitat and cold-water mortality events are still huge threats.
The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, is part of a five-year status review for the endangered marine mammal. The scientists concluded that the long-term probability of the species surviving has increased compared to a 2007 analysis, mainly because of higher aerial survey estimates of population size, improved methods of tracking survival rates, and better estimates of the availability of warm-water refuges. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: endangered species, Florida, manatees, marine mammals, seagrass habitat | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 13, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Agency efforts to educate visitors sometimes met with verbal abuse, according to federal biologists
Manatees gather at King Spring, along Florida’s Crystal River, which serves as a warm-water refuge on a 30-degree January day. PHOTO BY JOYCE KLEEN/USFWS.
FRISCO — Observations by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists may bolster a watchdog group’s arguments that well-intentioned swim-with-manatee programs are actually pushing the endangered marine mammals closer to the brink of extinction.
In some Florida locations, harassment of manatees by visitors may be out of control, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which last month said it will go to court to try and end the programs.
An email written last year by outgoing Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge/ Kings Bay Manatee Refuge manager Michael Lusk may be a “smoking gun” that shows exactly how visitors are disturbing the animals. Without adequate resources to manage the swim-with-manatees programs, the activities are likely to contribute to the decline of the species. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: endangered species, Environment, Florida, manatee harassment, manatees, marine mammals | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 10, 2015 by Bob Berwyn
Critical habitat needed to protect marine mammals
FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say they will the sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to adequately protect Florida’s endangered manatees. The formal notice of the lawsuit filed this week specifically takes aim at commercial tours that bring hundreds of swimmers into small shallow warm-water lagoons to touch otherwise resting manatees.
Florida manatees are one of the most endangered marine mammals in U.S. coastal waters. Despite their large size, they have low levels of body fat and a very slow metabolism, making them extremely vulnerable to cold and unable to survive long in water colder than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But the rare shallow warm-water springs manatees need in the winter are precisely those targeted by the increasingly popular swim-with tours. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Florida, manatee lawsuit, manatees, marine mammals | Leave a comment »
Posted on December 17, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Refuge managers seek to balance protection of marine mammals with demand for public access at Three Sisters Springs
FRISCO — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says a careful management plan at a freshwater spring in Florida can help protect manatees and ensure public access to the popular Three Sisters Springs recreation area.
The agency this week started taking input on a draft environmental assessment for management actions to protect manatees and still allow public access at Three Sisters Springs during the winter season. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation, public lands, wildlife | Tagged: Crystal Springs wildlife refuge, endangered species, Florida, manatees, marine mammals, Three sisters springs | Leave a comment »
Posted on September 14, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened
FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Florida, manatees, marine mammals | 1 Comment »
Posted on May 19, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
A manatee comes up for air in Florida’s Crystal River.
CRYSTAL RIVER — Getting a closeup look at marine mammals is always a treat. I believe we have a lot more in common with our ocean-going friends than we realize, and we should be trying to listen to what they have to say. This week, I had a chance to visit the Crystal River in Florida this week to look for manatees. The gentle vegetarians are protected by various federal and state laws, but they are still struggling due to extensive development and other human activities along the Florida coast. One of the best places to catch a glimpse of manatees is at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park about 45 minutes north of Tampa, Florida. Biologists at the park help rehabilitate manatees that have been injured by boat strikes, and from the park’s manatee observatory, it’s easy to see the deep scars on their backs. We’ve made some progress on protecting these magnificent marine mammals, but there’s more work to be done. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Morning photo, photography | Tagged: Crystal River, endangered species, Florida, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, manatees, marine mammals | 3 Comments »