Recent boat strikes serve as reminders to be vigilant for marine life
A 17-year-old male, long-term Sarasota Bay resident bottlenose dolphin was struck by a boat propeller in late June, 2015. Its fate remains unknown. Also, boat-struck sea turtles were recovered or documented on July 5 and 6 in Sarasota County. Photo credit: Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (photo taken under NMFS Permit No. 15543).
In recent weeks, several marine animals have been recovered or observed with boat strike wounds in Sarasota County waters — a reminder to remain vigilant for marine animals throughout this busy boating season.
Three loggerhead sea turtles and one Kemp’s ridley sea turtle were recovered dead by Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program between Sunday, July 5, and Monday, July 6. In addition, following the holiday weekend, Mote scientists documented a nesting female sea turtle with recent boat strike wounds. Mote scientists are monitoring for the turtle and noted that it has nested since being wounded — a sign that it might be able to recover successfully.
In late June, a boat propeller struck a 17-year-old male, long-term Sarasota Bay resident bottlenose dolphin. The fate of this animal cannot be determined at this time — dolphins sometimes survive less severe injuries to the dorsal fin. In general, about 5 percent of Sarasota Bay resident dolphins show evidence of having been struck by boats, and fatal collisions have been documented.
Read on to learn about the marine animals in local waters and how to protect them.
Watch out for dolphins, manatees and turtles at sea
Above: A dolphin calf born in 2015 swims with its mother in Sarasota Bay. Credit: Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (photo taken under NMFS Permit No. 15543)
Boaters should carefully scan the waters ahead of them to avoid wildlife.
Dolphins give birth during late spring and summer, and eight dolphin calves have been born so far this year in Sarasota Bay. The Bay’s resident dolphins frequent shallow waters where they may be unable to dive below an approaching boat, and naïve newborn dolphins lack the skills and experience to avoid boats, and have to surface more frequently to breathe than do older dolphins.
Sea turtles are swimming just offshore to mate before the females come ashore to nest (nesting beach guidelines below). All sea turtles are threatened or endangered species.
Manatees, endangered mammals, are also on the move in the Bay for foraging and mating. People might observe mating herds: several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female. Mote scientists have seen five mating herds in the past month, including one on July 9 along north Longboat Key and one July 10 along Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island. Scientists in Mote’s Manatee Research Program document and photograph herds to identify individual manatees by their unique patterns of scars. Mote received anecdotal reports of people attempting to interact with manatees in a recent herd – which is harmful and illegal.
Marine mammals and sea turtles are protected by law, and harassment or interference with them is subject to penalty, including fines, and it can jeopardize both animals and people. (Mote is not a law enforcement agency. For information about state law, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. For federal law, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.)
Tips for boaters:
Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines, comply with slow speed zone signs and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles, manatees and dolphins.
Follow 10 dolphin-friendly viewing tips. Click here for a PDF. These tips were made with dolphins in mind, but they’re also great guidelines for the best ways to view all large marine animals.
Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.
Never feed marine wildlife. Click here to watch a PSA about why it’s harmful and illegal to feed wild dolphins: www.dontfeedwilddolphins.org
Be sure to stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
If you observe a manatee mating herd – several manatees gathered as males vie to mate with a female – watch the manatees from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the animals’ natural mating behavior or put people into harm’s way. Adult manatees typically weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds and people could be seriously injured.
Protect sea turtles on the beach
Below: Sea turtle tracks documented by Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol, which monitors turtle nesting along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory
Sea turtle nests are now hatching on beaches from Longboat Key through Venice: the 35-mile stretch monitored by Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Patrol.
The Sarasota Police Department and Mote, a nonprofit research and education institution, remind residents and visitors to help keep local waters and beaches turtle friendly by following the Sarasota County Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance, Chapter 54, Article XXIII of the Sarasota County Code of Ordinances. The ordinance protects endangered sea turtles on all local beaches throughout nesting season, May 1 – Oct. 31.
The Sarasota County Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance requires that any “temporary structures, including but not limited to beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas which have the potential for entrapment of marine turtles and which may interfere with the use of the natural beach environment for nesting habitat, be removed from the beach nightly, from sunset to sunrise.” Beach furniture and other beach equipment, toys or trash left on the beach overnight during sea turtle nesting season can pose a serious entanglement hazard and obstacle for sea turtles and their hatchlings. Waiting until sunrise to set up beach furniture will allow any new turtle crawls and nests to be documented by Mote scientists. If you see turtle tracks not yet documented by Mote (documented tracks are crossed out with an “X”), please avoid placing furniture on them if possible.
In addition, please do not approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, do not make noise around turtles and their nests, and do not use fireworks, flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach. Artificial lights can disorient nesting turtles and their hatchlings, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea.
Beachgoers should stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones that are bounded by ropes. Dogs are not allowed on Sarasota County beaches other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice, where they must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.
If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle or marine mammal in Sarasota or Manatee County waters, please contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-998-0212. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Shark Days at Mote: Aug. 10-15
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium will dive into the science behind some of the ocean’s most fascinating fishes during this year’s Shark Days at Mote: Real Sharks, Real Science – a family-friendly celebration from Monday through Saturday, Aug.10 – 15.
10 a.m. Monday – Wednesday: The shark-tastic fun kicks off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with live Google Hangouts using Mote’s SeaTrek videoconferencing technology, which will allows scientists to bring high-energy, multimedia science programming right to your computer. Each Google Hangout session is about 25 minutes and will feature real shark scientists bringing their research and fieldwork to you.
To watch the program live, you must have Internet access. To tune into SeaTrek’s interactive Shark Days programs, please visit www.seatrek.tv/hangout during each program time. Each session will later be uploaded to SeaTrek’s youtube channel: www.youtube.com/seatrek.
Summer camps and other organized, education-focused groups are invited to make a Google Hangout session an interactive experience with the ability to ask questions via chat or video. For more information contact Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski at [email protected].
6 p.m. Thursday: Have questions about sharks? Adults can join Mote shark experts Dr. Nick Whitney, Dr. Heather Marshall and Jack Morris at Mote’s Sea Cinema for a special Science Café, a free, casual discussion between the experts and you! RSVP is required and details will soon be available from Mote’s web site.
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Friday: Children can embrace their creative side while learning about one of the ocean’s most magnificent creatures with Sharks & Crafts, a crafts event in the Aquarium’s courtyard. Sharks & Crafts is free with regular paid admission to Mote Aquarium and is free for Mote Members.
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday: Shark Days at Mote will wrap up with Fins and Fun, a family festival! Enjoy games and crafts in the Aquarium’s courtyard. The family festival is free with regular paid admission to Mote Aquarium and is free for Mote Members.
Saturdays in September:
$6 Mote admission for Florida residents
In honor of Mote Marine Lab’s 60th anniversary, Florida residents are invited to discover the wonders of Mote Aquarium for just $6 every Saturday this September.
This year, Mote is celebrating 60 years of world-class marine research and education. As an independent, nonprofit Lab, Mote has succeeded through its wonderful partnerships with local communities, and we are excited to give back.
For every Saturday in the month of September, Florida residents of all ages can receive Mote Aquarium admission for $6 by providing proof of residency for at least one person in your group. The special is valid for up to four people in a party.
Mote looks forward to many more decades of groundbreaking research and to enhancing ocean literacy for even more people. Mote Aquarium is dedicated to sharing Mote research and encouraging future generations of scientists, educators and the public to explore their interest in marine science and to make more informed decisions about marine conservation.
You can also help Mote celebrate its 60th anniversary by wishing Mote a happy birthday and sending your most creative birthday wish. You can send all greetings, pictures, scanned drawings, pictures of you with Mote gear on, videos, creative artwork, etc., to [email protected]. We will compile the most imaginative submissions into a Facebook album for everyone to see. (Let us know in the email if you do not wish for your submission to be displayed publicly). Thank you for helping us celebrate our birthday!
Mote is also celebrating its 60th anniversary all year with the fundraising campaign Oceans of Opportunity. You can help by visiting: www.mote.org/oceanscampaign
Support Mote by dining at Columbia
Enjoy good eats for a great cause: Support Mote Marine Laboratory by dining at Columbia Restaurant any time during September.
Choose Mote from the ballot provided by your server and Columbia will donate 5 percent of your check to Mote, one of the nonprofits in the 18th Annual Columbia Restaurant Community Harvest.
The Community Harvest benefits deserving nonprofits near Columbia Restaurants in: Sarasota; multiple Tampa locations including Ybor City; St. Augustine; Clearwater Beach; and Celebration. Since 1998, Columbia has donated over $1.6 million to nonprofits throughout Florida.
Mote is an independent, nonprofit marine science and education institution dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans.
All Columbia locations are open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. In Sarasota, Columbia is located at 411 St. Armands Circle. For hours and other information, visit: www.columbiarestaurant.com
Go to the beach? This survey’s for you!
Help Mote scientists improve real-time, beach-monitoring service
If you visit Florida’s beaches, your feedback can help Mote Marine Lab scientists enhance their real-time Beach Conditions Reporting System (BCRS). Florida residents and visitors are invited to take a short survey about what kinds of beach information they want.
Mote’s BCRS provides twice-daily or daily updates on conditions like wave height, wind direction, surf conditions, presence of seaweed or dead fish, rip currents, cautionary lifeguard flags and respiratory irritation due to the harmful algal bloom Florida red tide. Mote scientists created the report to help the public adjust their beach choices during red tides, and the system’s variety of information has since become a valuable resource at all times.
Mote’s survey will help make the BCRS website more user-friendly and include data that matter most to Florida residents and its millions of visitors. 95 million people visited the Sunshine State in 2013.
The BCRS currently monitors 28 of Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches in Escambia, Okaloosa, Gulf, Franklin, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties, and Mote is actively seeking opportunities to expand its coverage.
On each beach, trained volunteers such as lifeguards and park rangers take specific observations and photos to document current conditions. Their findings are processed and distributed through Mote’s Southern Operations Coastal Ocean Observing Laboratory (SO-COOL) – which collects and manages several kinds of environmental data to support marine science, ecosystem health and public outreach.
Saturdays in June and July:
Learn about sea turtles on free walks
Florida’s Gulf Coast is a hotspot for nesting sea turtles, but how much do you know about our flippered friends? You can learn the tale behind the turtle tracks and scout local beaches for nests by joining Mote Marine Laboratory’s free, educational Turtle Walks on Saturdays in June and July.
Mote documents sea turtle nesting from Longboat Key through Venice. See updated nest counts at www.mote.org/2015nesting.
(Photo above: sea turtle tracks on a Sarasota County beach. Credit Mote Marine Laboratory.)
The public Turtle Walks are led by a Mote-trained volunteer participating in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol and Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which partner to monitor local beaches. The volunteer scouts for signs of turtle nesting as part of an effort to conserve sea turtles. She will also discuss sea turtle life history and talk about other local wildlife and natural habitats. People of all ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. No reservations are needed.
Walks begin at 6:45 a.m. every Saturday in June and July. Participants should meet at the public beach access point at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. Parking is available.
During the Turtle Walks, participants might find evidence of turtle nests or of “false crawls” — when females come ashore but return to sea without nesting. Guides will describe how Mote scientists and trained volunteers carefully interpret and document these signs. Participants will also learn how all beachgoers, coastal residents and visitors can keep beaches safe and inviting for sea turtles.
Southwest Florida beaches provide nesting grounds for threatened loggerhead sea turtles, endangered green sea turtles and occasionally for other sea turtle species. Florida’s west coast hosts the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting season runs from May 1 through Oct. 31.
2015 marks Mote’s 34th year of protecting sea turtles along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. To support Mote’s sea turtle research and conservation efforts, donate online at www.mote.org/support and select “donate.” In the drop-down box, choose “Sea Turtle Conservation.”
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote has 24 research programs and a variety of initiatives dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at mote.org.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Fla., 34236. 941.388.4441