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.
Manatees - an endangered species The common name for Florida's gentle giants is the West Indian manatee. They are found throughout rivers, springs and shallow coastal waters of Florida and adjacent states. Weighing up to 3500 pounds and having a bulbous face and rotund shape, scientists believe they are the 'mermaids' identified by sailors in historical lore. Manatees consume 5-10 percent of their body weight daily and spend 6-8 hours a day feeding. They are plant-eaters and are commonly found grazing along the same areas as recreational boaters. This fact accounts for numerous killings and maiming of manatees in Florida each year. Propeller scars are so common on manatees that there is a computerized catalog of photographs to enable identification of individuals by their scars.
According to the February 2004 count of manatees in Florida by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission there are only 2568 remaining in Florida. Even with this low number, there are efforts by some to remove manatees from the endangered species list.
Dolphins - our favorite ocean mammal Humans love dolphins because of their smiling face. Dolphins aren't really smiling, this is just the shape of their mouths. Dolphins are mammals. They have hair, breathe air and give birth to live young. The hair is visible at birth, a few whiskers here and there. Dolphins can weigh up to 800 pounds and have lived up to 50 years--the period we have been tracking them. Dolphins eat fish and swallow them whole. Dolphins give birth to one baby at a time and the baby usually stays with the mother the first three years, growing rapidly on mother's milk. Dolphins are not endangered at this time, but the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 requires us to steer clear of them. So enjoy them from afar!
Sea Turtles-Florida's efforts for recovery All species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened and many of them lay their eggs along the coast of South Florida. Loggerheads, Leatherbacks, Green sea turtles have all been nesting here. South Florida is also one of the nation's best tourist destinations. The beaches are populated with high rise condominiums and hotels. Some cities have passed 'no lights' laws to help these hatchlings find their way to the ocean instead of the highways to be killed as the babies follow the brightest light. Turning the lights down or off late at night helps protect these babies. The rare Kemp's Ridley has also been spotted in Florida. Many of our local nature centers lead guided tours to watch the huge turtles come to shore every year or so to lay their eggs. Each turtle might lay up to 100 eggs. Within 43-75 days the hatchlings are ready to find the ocean, and fight for survival. They will return to the same beaches 25 or more years later to lay their eggs. Stay tuned for the news of this years' counts of nests in South Florida.
WHAT IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF WATER POLLUTION? Most pollution comes from general locations of pollution discharge rather than one specific location. Florida's pollution is stormwater runoff. This is rainwater flowing off the land's surface which carries litter, oil and chemicals into the closest waterway either directly or through storm drains.
A pamphlet made through the Youth Environmental Programs, Inc states: "Water pollution prevention does not begin when you are in or near the water. It is a practice which needs to be implemented in all areas of your life."
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT?
1. Use a canvas bag for shopping instead of paper or plastic and reusable plates and cups instead of disposable ones.
2. Support recycling efforts in your community.
3. Clean with non-toxic products such as lemons, vinegar and baking soda instead of harmful cleaning solutions.
4. Save water by turning off the shower when soaping up and the faucet when brushing your teeth.
Adopt a dolphin!
Dolphin Research Center
58901 Overseas Highway
Grassy Key, FL 33050
Adopt a manatee!
Save the Manatee Club
500 N. Maitland Avenue
Maitland, FL 32751
1-800-432-5646 or 407-539-0990
Additional source used for this newsletter:
Florida Department of Environmental
Protection, Florida Marine Research Institute,
100 Eighth Avenue SE, St. Petersburg, Florida
Kathy Runk is owner of www.myoceantreasures.com marine jewelry and gifts and is actively involved in marine conservation including volunteering for non-profit agencies concerned with our oceans and their inhabitants.