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 »
Posted on November 4, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Manatees at risk in Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy NOAA.
USGS research shows isolated population
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Puerto Rico’s manatees could be threatened by extinction because they are relatively isolated genetically, with no cross-breeding between the Puerto Rico population and those in Florida.
The findings, which come from a study of West Indian manatees by the U.S. Geological Survey and Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, could help resource managers make decisions about how to conserve the endangered marine mammal. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment | Tagged: Caribbean, endangered species, manatees, marine conservation, Puerto Rico, United States Geological Survey | Leave a comment »
Posted on October 5, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
A Florida manatee, Photo courtesy USFWS.
Researchers assessed changes as human activity grew in a remote Belize coastal area
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Results of a long-term manatee study in Belize suggest the gentle marine mammals are a true sentinel species, indicating overall ecosystem health of coastal areas.
The research will help strengthen manatee conservation plans, showing the importance of protecting habitat and migratory paths, and working with local populations as well as tourists to educate them about conservation activities.
“Manatees are the proverbial ‘canaries in the mineshaft,’ as they serve as indicators of their environment and may reflect the overall health of marine ecosystems,” said co-author Alonso Aguirre, executive director of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, endangered species, Environment, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: Belize, biodiversity, Environment, manatees, oceans | Leave a comment »