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Story Tools

Date of Issue: September 27, 2007

Sandscript

Manatee interaction, up-close and personal

A visitor had an up-close-and-personal interaction with one of Florida’s favorite marine mammals last week.

Peggy Jamison was visiting mom Bette Kissick and dad Jim Kissick in Bradenton Beach last week from her home in Denver, Colo. Peggy decided on Tuesday to go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico off Cortez Beach.

She was a bit offshore from the Sixth Street groin when she saw this huge shape start to approach her underwater. With the strains of the music from the movie “Jaws” running through her head, she started to swim faster toward shore, then remembered that splashing is not the thing to do if a shark is in the area. She stopped.

“It scared me to death,” Peggy said as the threat neared. “It was huge.”

As the big dark thing closed in, she suddenly realized it was a manatee.

She said it came up to her, swam past, then stopped in front of her, lifted its muzzle from the water, and snorted at her. The manatee then swam past Peggy, stopped, “sort of leaned into me,” and again snorted at her before heading on its way north along the shore.

Peggy said she was wearing a black one-piece bathing suit. Could the manatee - oh, let’s call him Sparky for fun - have thought that she was a female manatee looking for a little adventure?

This is the time of year that manatees mate in the shallow waters of the Gulf and bays. There is usually a female or two and a whole slew of blubbery males, who roll in the surf and do what manatees do to make little manatees.

“I’m really not that big,” Peggy was quick to point out.

But she’s definitely got a story to tell to her mountain friends and family when she returns to Denver.

 

Clean up goes good

According to Ocean Conservancy, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, an extensive marine debris cleanup effort was conducted at the South Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier.

According to the agencies, “during the first nine days of underwater cleanups, commercial divers have removed more than 2,500 pounds of fishing debris (including fishing line and 90 fishing nets).” The project went through Sept 28.

“Entanglement in marine debris is a serious hazard for marine wildlife, including manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, birds, fish, crabs and people,” according to the group sponsors. “The underwater and shoreline cleanups are part of a larger project designed to minimize marine wildlife entanglements. In addition to the cleanups, the project aims to prevent or minimize the re-accumulation of fishing line (and in turn minimize future entanglements of marine wildlife) through outreach and education to anglers, including posting of fishing line recycling bins, signs, and information on best fishing practices.”

There are some scary factoids involved with all this stuff, too.

“Discarded fishing gear is marine debris, and it must be removed to protect critical habitat,” according to Jessica Koelsch, Florida Marine Wildlife Program Manager for Ocean Conservancy. “We have recovered an enormous amount of fishing gear from Tampa Bay in such a short time period - it is alarming that our bay has become a virtual trash can for discarded fishing gear. Our situation here is not hopeless and we must all do our part to help our bay marine environment to be healthy. We can pick up line and debris whenever we are fishing and anywhere along the shoreline.

More factoids, from the groups:

Monofilament is non-biodegradable and can remain intact and dangerous in the ocean for more than 600 years.  Monofilament caught around the flipper of a marine mammal or sea turtle can result in the loss of the flipper or death due to infection, blood loss, and can also result in a weakened health state, or can lead to drowning if the line gets caught on the sea floor.

From 2000 to 2006, 58 stranded dolphins had fishing line entanglements or hook ingestion; 298 sea turtles were found entangled; and 26 manatees were rescued because of entanglement.

Countless fish, crabs, and sea birds are also entangled each year.

Fishing line also causes costly repairs when caught in boat propellers.

Hey, how hard is it to keep the line in your pocket, on the dock or in the boat when cutting off a snarl from a fishing pole?

 

Fun time

Sunday was the first day of autumn.

Temperatures have somewhat dropped, both in the water and air. It’s the time of year that locals have a chance to really enjoy Florida.

Late September and October are, as far as I’m concerned, the best months of the year.

Our winter friends are en route but not quite here yet, at least not en mass.

The water is clear and warm enough for those of us who want comfortable swimming.

As long as the tropical storms avoid our shores, it’s a pleasant time.

So enjoy the time we’ve got before the streets get filled with people, the restaurants get packed and the stores get filled with folks.

Yes, we love our winter friends, but this is the time when our Island is OUR Island.

 

Sandscript factoid

Butt update from Sarasota: There appears to be some movement on an ordinance to outlaw cigarette smoking on beaches in Sarasota County.

County commissioners are expected late this year to deal with the issue of banning smoking of cigs except in designated areas on the shore.

Cigarette butts are viewed as a health and environmental hazard. If Sarasota County passes its proposal on the beaches, it would be one of the first areas in the country to ban butts on the beach.

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