A Travellerspoint blog

Banana Island Summer Resting Area Prescribed for Manatees


The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), established principally and primarily for the management and protection of Florida manatees, is implementing a small, preliminary summer manatee resting area (less than 4 acres; see graphic representation, below) for manatees within Refuge waters around Banana Island, beginning Friday morning. The designated restricted area, comprised exclusively of refuge waters, will be delineated by standard refuge markers and float lines.

Over the past five weeks, the Refuge has received several reports from tour operators regarding manatee use in specific areas around Banana Island. These video and photo reports include mother and calf pairs resting and nursing in Refuge waters. “We see more manatees using this area each summer, particularly mothers and calves, while the pressure from [summer] visitors has overwhelmingly increased in recent years. Most of the summer visitors are unguided and unfamiliar with “Manatee Manners”. We support providing manatees with a summer resting area of their own”, said Mike Dunn, tour operator for Manatees in Paradise, and a member of Manatee Eco-Tourism Association (META).

A recent review of aerial survey data from 2004 to 2014 reveals that the area is frequented by cow/calf pairs during summer months; with an average of 17 manatees sighted in the area from April to October. Designating this small area within refuge waters is a precautionary approach to provide manatees with a place an area free of any potential disturbance.

The closed area will provide an estimated local population of over 30 summer manatees with a no- disturbance habitat area. The area is ideal for calving due to its shallow nature within a confined area adjacent to several springs (e.g. King Spring and Mullet Hole). “Site-fidelity isn’t just a winter adaptation for manatees. When manatees know a certain area is safe or ideal for a certain need, they will use it consistently, whether for resting, calving, feeding, nursing, or other behaviors”, noted Ivan Vicente, Visitor Services Specialist, Crystal River NWR.

Staff will continue, throughout the summer, to monitor manatee use of the area to help inform future management decisions. In addition, the Refuge will mobilize the Manatee Watch Volunteer Program to help monitor manatee use while educating visitors about the summer manatee population.

To become familiar with the year-round manatee manners on Kings Bay, visit http://www.fws.gov/crystalriver. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Posted by riverventures 09:27 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Chessie the long-distance swimming manatee

You may have heard about Chessie the famous “long distance manatee” in the news. If you don’t know what a manatee is, you can go to our manatee film script and read about them. Chessie is a male West Indian Manatee who, in summer 1994, earned his name by showing up in Chesapeake Bay, much further north than the species is known to travel. (Manatees normally live in Florida and the Caribbean). Fearing that he would die from the cold of oncoming fall and winter, biologists flew him back to Florida and let him go.


Well, wouldn’t you know it, that pesky manatee was back to his old tricks in 1995 when he took off and headed north again. This time, however, biologists at the National Biological Service’s Sirenia Project office in Gainesville, Florida were ready. They had placed a satellite transmitter “tag” on Chessie so they could follow his movements and learn from his migration. Also, they could find and rescue him if he got into trouble. Below is a map of his locations and dates in 1995 (courtesy of the Sirenia Project).

Nobody knows for sure why Chessie swims north. It might be that he has found something he likes to eat in the more northern waters. Perhaps he just likes to explore. But, as it turns out, Chessie knows what he’s doing. In 1995 he swam all the way up to Point Judith, Rhode Island, setting a world’s record for a West Indian Manatee! He has gone further north than any other West Indian Manatee in recorded history! But when the water started cooling off, he turned around and swam right back down the coast to Florida again. Unfortunately, his transmitter fell off in Connecticut, so his route back is somewhat obscure. (The transmitters have a special “weak link” designed to snap if the transmitter gets caught, to avoid harming the manatee). He was sighted along the way back to Florida by fishermen, boaters, and even a surfer. Biologists were amazed when he showed up in November in Florida, after swimming 3,000 miles round trip!

Nobody can say for sure what Chessie is going to do this year, but this page will keep you posted. Thanks to the efforts of the Sirenia Project, there is a new satellite tag on Chessie, and we hope to follow his movements by updating this page periodically.

July 12, 1996

In early June, Chessie entered the waters of Georgia along with many other manatees which regularly go there in the summer to feed on saltmarsh grasses. But unlike his comrades, which usually stay in Georgia, Chessie likes to hang out a while and then keep going. On the 17th of June, Chessie was near Savannah, where he stayed about 6 days to feed. Since June 23rd, he has been swimming through the waters of South Carolina. If his current itinerary is compared with last year’s trek to New England, he is about 1 week behind where he was last year at this time. (This information was provided by the National Biological Service’s Sirenia Project in Gainesville, FL.)

July 20, 1996

Chessie approached and passed Morehead City, NC on July 9th. At that point, he was about ten days behind his schedule from last summer, but he was still heading north. He was spotted by several people in Morehead City, who were excited as the famous manatee swam through their local waters!

Bad News and Good News (August 2, 1996)

Well, the bad news is that on July 17th, Chessie escaped from his satellite transmitter, so we don’t know where he is. The good news is that the transmitter was recovered without an injured manatee attached, so we can assume that Chessie is okay. This is the third time Chessie has slipped free of transmitters (sneaky little guy, isn’t he?). The transmitter was recovered near Beaufort, NC. Jim Reid, the Sirenia Project biologist in charge of the tracking project says: “We expect that Chessie is fine and continuing his travels north. He is probably continuing his 10-20 mile per day travel rate as he works his way toward the Chesapeake Bay.” Whether he will make it all the way to Rhode Island again is anybody’s guess, but we may never know just how far he gets, unless someone spots him. So now we can only hope that we get reliable reports from people who see the famous manatee in his travels.

The News of August 5, 1997

The winter of 1996/1997 was fairly mild, so the manatees did not aggregate as heavily as usual near the springs and rivers in Florida. Because of that, Chessie was not seen during the winter, and he could not be tagged. So now, as the summer of 1997 continues, we don’t know where he is or how he is doing. Dr. Chip Deutsch of the Sirenia Project says: “We haven’t seen him in a while, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t be perfectly fine. He’s probably up north right now.” I’ll keep you posted as I hear more!

WOW! This just in (Sept 26th, 2001)

After being unseen for several years, Chessie was spotted in August of 2001 in Virginia. A manatee was seen in the waters of Virginia, and photographs of the scar patterns were compared to photos of Chessie from a few years ago. Scar patterns have confirmed that Chessie is alive and well and at this very moment, making his way south for the winter!! Here is a link to the Press Release.

The Latest (March 4, 2003)

Bob Bonde of the Sirenia Project believes Chessie is fine even though they have not seen him for a few years. Chessie has a tendency to drop off the radar for a year or more at a time, but he seems very good at taking care of himself.

(Source: oceanicresearch.org)

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Posted by riverventures 02:20 Archived in USA Tagged river three with swim sisters spring crystal snorkel manatee ventures Comments (0)

Even Barbie Doesn’t Want To Associate Herself With SeaWorld

Barbie has quit SeaWorld!

Toy giant Mattel has decided to end production of “all SeaWorld-branded merchandise, including SeaWorld Trainer Barbies,” the New York Post reports.

The iconic doll joins a growing group of people opposing the theme park, from ex-trainers to ex-attendees. With four lawsuits filed against SeaWorld in the last month accusing the company of lying about how it treats its orcas, Barbie is getting out just in time.

“We’re well aware of and very sensitive to all the issues … I can confirm we don’t make that doll anymore,” a Mattel representative told PETA, who sent a release to The Dodo. “We certainly don’t have any plans to produce the doll again in the future.”

So what is Barbie going to do now?! We came up with some much more animal-friendly alternatives.

Whale Watching Barbie


Snorkeling Barbie


Bird Watching Barbie


Farm Animal Sanctuary Barbie

Jayu/Flickr/(CC BY-SA 2.0)/Shutterstock/Mattel/Amazon

Animal Shelter Volunteer Barbie


Wildlife Hike Barbie


The park has just announced that a new rollercoaster, “Nothing Faster,” is coming to SeaWorld Orlando. But it’s really hard to imagine anything faster than SeaWorld’s demise.

(Source: thedodo.com)

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Posted by riverventures 10:01 Archived in USA Tagged river three with swim sisters spring crystal snorkel manatee ventures Comments (0)

About 20 manatees rescued from Florida storm drain

(Reuters) – About 20 Florida manatees were freed by early Tuesday morning from a storm drain near Cape Canaveral, where they were apparently trying to warm themselves, officials and local media said.

Video footage showed a rescuer comforting one manatee floating at the opening of the pipe, which was cut open during the hours-long rescue.

The footage, posted online by Central Florida News 13 and Florida Today newspaper, also showed a manatee being carried in a sling to a nearby canal, where it was released to cheers from onlookers, and two other manatees being petted after being hoisted out of the water by heavy machinery.

The rescue in Satellite Beach, a town on the Atlantic coast 15 miles (24 km) south of Cape Canaveral, started mid-afternoon on Monday when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist, Ann Spellman, sounded the alarm, according to Florida Today.

She told the paper that her hunch led city workers to check the 100-150 feet long drain pipe.

Manatees, also known as sea cows, often leave the Indian River Lagoon during cold snaps for warmer waters in the canals and had probably followed each other into the pipe, she said.

The rescue wrapped up at about 2 a.m. local time (0100 ET), Satellite Beach Fire Department Captain Jay Dragon said, with local police working alongside experts from SeaWorld.

Read the original article with video: http://reut.rs/1aSaKJR

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Posted by riverventures 09:59 Archived in USA Tagged river three with swim sisters spring crystal snorkel manatee ventures Comments (0)

Watchdog group says manatee harassment ‘out of control’

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

Staff Report

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.

PEER released excerpts of the email:

Despite “herculean education efforts, we are not reaching the public” outside of tour groups. Thus, “activities by an uneducated public are likely resulting in the regular take of manatees inside the springs.” For example, “amateur flash photography is out-of-hand in the springs and is likely resulting in the take of manatees”;
Increasingly, visitors react to warnings from refuge staff and volunteers with “animosity” and “abusive language.” He also cautioned that increased law enforcement presence is needed to stem “potentially dangerous” situations involving “physical violence”; and
“Visitor behavior in the water cannot be adequately monitored solely from land, the boardwalk, or from a kayak. Due to angle and glare it is impossible to see what the majority of visitors are doing inside the springs.”
As a result, Lusk recommended that “the Service should close the springs while manatees are present to prevent take, until such time as resources are available to safely open the springs.”

His conclusions echo a Notice of Intent to Sue the Service recently filed by PEER to end swim-with programs, which enable thousands of tourists swarm the narrow, shallow warm water springs habitat the manatees need to survive.

“A professional in the best position to know admits that the Service has no effective control of swim-with programs to protect manatees from harassment,” said PEER Staff Counsel Laura Dumais.

More visitors are visiting the springs at night when no rangers are around, Dumais said,

“Relying on web videos as its principal strategy to protect these beleaguered animals from growing hordes of tourists obviously does not work,” she said, referring to the presentations aimed at educating refuge visitors.

A FOIA request also yielded a compilation of manatee harassment reports dating back to January. Since then, the USFWS has issued ten citations, while another eight cases remain under criminal investigation.

(Source: summitcountyvoice.com)

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Posted by riverventures 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged river three with swim sisters spring crystal snorkel manatee ventures Comments (0)

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