Manatees are undoubtedly charismatic creatures! People love manatees, or expressed in more modern jargon: we “heart ♥” manatees. Did you know there are researchers who literally “heart” manatees?
Every year dive professionals from all over the world converge at the annual Dive Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) show, held on alternate years, in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. The breadth and diversity of the show would take hours to report, so I’ll focus in on one thing “speaking manatee”.
Manatee Glass Charm Worn by Carol to Get The Conversation Started
My first point of contact was someone I met through social media. Facebook has the potential to link like-minds that may not normally ever meet, through the communication channel of cyberspace. Bernie Campoli is a historical diver and is part of the group of sea heroes I dreamed of meeting, years ago. Come to find out Bernie also helped with research projects on the Florida manatee in the 1980s. This is Bernie’s photograph on this classic manatee poster:
Manatees gather together in the wintertime at various warm water sites around Florida. Some of these manatees frequent natural freshwater springs. Fish also enjoy congregating near the outflows of spring water. It is here that manatees and a number of fish species share the same watery real estate until the weather warms and manatees spread out again. While together in the springs fish often surround manatees as illustrated in this photograph:
Interaction between fish and manatees is an interesting behavior to observe. In fact some fish, particularly bream also known as sunfish (Lepomis spp.) and sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) are known to continually surround and peck at the manatee’s skin especially while they are resting. Note the bream below are nipping this manatee:
November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida. For over 30 years proclamations have been officially made to help protect this endangered marine mammal and Florida treasure.
This November is different though, as a sense of foreboding blankets the future of the sirenians here in Florida. This year, 2013 has seen the highest mortality of manatees since record keeping began = 766 manatee deaths as of October 25, 2013 and 769 currently according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records. Of these, 276 manatees died where red tide was prevalent in southwest Florida. Additionally, in this Florida Fish and Wildlife preliminary report an unusually high number of “Undetermined” manatee deaths were reported near the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. It is thought to be part of a serious toxic imbalance along with a significant loss of seagrass beds, part of the manatee’s main food source.