February 2010 www.WaterLIFEmagazine.com P a g e 11
Manatee Population in
Florida Now Over 5000!
On the Li ne wi th Capt Ron Bl ago January 9, and told me about dead jacks in
Water LIFE Senior Staff the Intracoastal Waterway. By the time I
It’s awfully hard to count fish either made it down to a boat ramp in Venice,
dead or alive, but Ron Taylor, lead snook commercial fishermen had already picked
biologist for the FWC Research Institute them up and were filling the third pickup
has estimated that there is a population of truck full of 3- and 4-pound jacks all
335,000 snook at least 20 inches long in under the watchful eye of a Marine Patrol
state waters. His estimate of the snook officer. I guess we know where cat food
killed in southwest Florida from this comes from. It was a good payday for
recent freeze is at least 15,000. I’m sure those fishermen.
his estimate will be higher as more data The next day I was at the Manasota
comes in. As a result of this fish kill the Key bridge and saw about a dozen dead
FWC has closed snook season until at snook all around the 20-inch range. I
least September. I am amazed at how fast knew there would be many more reports.
the FWC can react in these situations. Dead pompano in Lemon Bay, tarpon and Manatees cluster like cockroaches in the warmth of an underwater spring. In the cold the
Every time Mother Nature has one of catfish in the Peace River and offshore FWC counted 5067 manatees this year and there must be some more they missed.
her major events there are always winners fish kills of grouper, snapper and baitfish Below: A cold stressed manatee could develop white ʻcoldʼ sores, but may recover.
and losers; and this recent cold wave was in Lee and Collier Counties. Cold weather does offer some advan-
no exception. I have seen colder tempera- tage when it comes to counting manatees.
tures here, down in the 20s, I’ve even
seen snow here, well just about enough
335,000 snook Each year the FWC is required by law to
do a synoptic survey (total head count) of
to make one snow ball. These events last- at least 20 inches long the population of manatees in Florida.
ed just a day or two; but I have never in The first was done in 1991 and a total of
my 30 year history here, seen a cold front in state waters 1267 manatees where counted. In 2007
last as long as this one did. For 10 the survey found 2817 manatees. In 2008
straight days the temperature never got As the days went by more reports the State did not do a survey because they
over 60 degrees with low temperatures came in – freshwater bass and sunfish in said it was just too warm that winter. In
hovering near the freezing point. local ponds and a massive talapia kill in 2009 the survey found 3802 manatees;
The first report I received was from a Lake Hancock, which is the headwaters of that record number really got a lot of peo-
fisherman who was out early Saturday the Peace River. We lost a lot of fish. ple wondering where all these manatees just a press release from FWC.
were coming from; remember that accord- It was just a few weeks ago when the
ing to the FWC, synoptic surveys count headlines were Boaters kill record number
only the minimum number of manatees – (97) of manatees in 2009. I guess no one
after all, there will always be those mana- wants to be the first to point out that the
tees they just couldn’t see. population of manatees has increased 300-
I knew that the recent cold spell would percent in the last 11 years, or that mil-
be the ideal time to do this year’s survey. lions and millions of taxpayer’s dollars
The pictures of record numbers of mana- have been wasted on manatee zones, sig-
tees herded up in the warm water springs nage, dock and building moratoriums and
and discharges of power plants were all law suits trying to save a species that
over the television. They were going to really never was in trouble to begin with.
be easy to count and the FWC did just I guess the good folks at the Save The
that. Manatee Club headquarters will start
The preliminary results of the survey pushing their adopt a manatee program
done the week of Jan 11, 2010 was 5,067 again. After all, there are now so many
manatees. 2779 on the east coast and more that need our help.
2288 on the west coast – a new all time Capt. Ron can be reached for comments
record. You would think that this would or fishing information at:
be big news in the media, but not a word, firstname.lastname@example.org