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Marine News Fall 2004 - Endangered and Threatened in Florida

Our oceans are home to many marine mammals, fish, turtles, corals and others. The delicate balance between man and the ocean is constantly being challenged by the demands of our society. Most of our planet is covered by water, a necessary ingredient of human life. The state of our oceans should be uppermost in our minds in order for quality of life for all species to remain as it is.

Florida's West Indiana Manatee-What is Killing Them? The top manatee story after the recent hurricanes was in Lee County where residents rescued a manatee that was the victim of Hurricane Charley's storm surge. The stunned and tired manatee was splashed onto Pearl Street after the storm surge receded. This was one manatee that did not have to be included in the mortality numbers this year.

The manatees killed this year are divided into categories by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. 1/1/04 - 9/30/04 numbers: Watercraft-60, Flood Gates-1, Other human-4, Perinatal-65, Cold-36, Natural-20, Undetermined-43, Unrecovered-2 for a total of 231.

According to the February 2004 count of manatees in Florida by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission there were only 2568 manatees remaining in Florida.

If you see a dead or injured manatee or one that's been harassed while in Florida, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's toll-free hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.

Lastly, as a visitor to our tropical paradise, do not approach, touch, feed or water manatees. It is against the law and carries a fine as well as a possible jail term. Use your camera to make memories, not a police experience.

Dolphins - Our favorite Marine Mammal. Dolphins are not endangered at this time, but the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 requires you to stay away from them. Do not encourage them into the path of danger by boats or other human interaction. Wild dolphins have been found injured by firecrackers placed down their blow hold, beer poured over them and into their blow hold and other horror stories. These beautiful creatures think man is their friend but the next person they meet may be their enemy instead.

There are licensed facilities where you can interact safely with dolphins that have been raised in captivity or rescued.

Sea Turtles-Has the 2004 hurricane season hurt their recovery? South Florida is home to Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and Green sea turtles. Hawksbill and Kemp's ridley have occasionally been found. These are the five species found in US waters in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The population of loggerheads nesting along the Atlantic coast of Florida is the second largest in the world. The nesting season runs from around May to September and within approximately 60 days of nesting, the hatchlings too are in danger.

It is too soon to have counts, but the yearly numbers will reveal the losses. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be reporting the 2004 figures early next year.

There are other dangers to our sea turtles. The turtle hospital in Marathon, Florida treats a variety of turtle ailments, such as flipper amputations caused by fishing line and trap rope entanglements, shell damage caused by boat collisions, and intestinal impactions caused by ingestion of foreign material such as plastic bags, balloons and fishing lines. Turtles love jellyfish and shrimp and ingest filters from cigarettes and plastic in error. Turtles that died from starvation were found with a stomach full of cigarette filters.

The most recent nesting totals for Florida's turtles from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the year 2003 is:

Loggerheads: 63,446

Green Turtles: 2262

Leatherbacks: 842

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE SEA TURTLES?

1. Never throw litter on the beach or in the water.

2. If pets are allowed on the beach, keep them leashed at all times.

3. Obey all beach rules and stay away from turtle nesting sites.

4. Help spread the word about sea turtles. The more people know, the more they will want to help them.

5. Watch for turtles while boating.

6. During nesting seasons, turn lights facing the beach off or have proper filters.

7. Participate in local beach and reef cleanups.

8. Do not buy sea turtle products-jewelry, oil, leather, meat or eggs.

Kathy Runk has been a volunteer exhibit guide at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, volunteer for the Save the Manatee Club in Florida, attended Dolphinlab in Marathon, Florida and adopted Elsie the manatee, dolphins Merina and her baby Calusa. Kathy is the owner of http://www.myoceantreasures.com that sells ocean themed jewelry and gifts.

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